A new scholarship project, intended to lower day school tuition costs for many families and to make the process less intrusive and more transparent, was announced by UJA Federation of Greater Toronto on March 23.
The Generations Trust Scholarship will cap the tuition of families with up to three children, who are attending one of nine elementary schools funded by UJA Federation, starting in the fall of 2021. Using an online calculator, families can see what their total costs would be, depending on their income, assets and the number of children enrolled in school.
“We’re expecting hundreds of families will be able to access support. Families who were struggling before will be able to access support and equally important, families who before couldn’t make day school work… will now have the ability to access support and scholarships,” Daniel Held, executive director of the Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Education, said in an interview.
The fund will target parents who have not previously qualified for financial assistance. For years, federation has worried that families in the middle, who do not qualify for financial aid but who were also not tremendously wealthy, were being squeezed out of day schools, where annual tuition is $20,000 per child or more.
Held said federation was not currently revealing the size of the fund supporting the Generations Scholarship, or identifying the donors. In 2020, Adam Minsky, CEO of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, said that UJA was fundraising for a $200 million endowment initiative.
About 5,000 children are enrolled in elementary day schools. The number grew by 5 per cent this academic year, reversing a 17-year long decline, as parents saw how quickly the day schools adapted to COVID restrictions, compared to the public schools, Held said. Financial need in day schools also increased, due to the pandemic, and these new scholarships will accommodate that as well.
The new funding also promises to make the application process “open and transparent,” Held said. The website uses a calculator that does not collect information, to allow families to get an approximate idea of the total cost. The application itself is not more difficult or intrusive than the calculator, he said.
“We know that by opening up the box and by allowing families to see this and get a sense of what tuition would be like for them in the long run, it makes it so much and easier and accessible and less uncomfortable, than a process that is hidden,” Held said.
The Generations Scholarship is not a pilot project, but an ongoing program, that will allow families to project their tuition costs for years to come. Financial information will need to be verified through a “simplified process” annually.
The scholarship fund was influenced by the success of an across-the-board tuition cap at the community high school, TanenbaumCHAT, where a multi-million-dollar donation allowed the school to freeze tuition at $19,000 for five years. In 2017, declining enrolment forced TanenbaumCHAT to close its northern campus. Several other day schools have also closed branches in an effort to cut costs, in the last few years.
Five years ago, TanenbaumCHAT’s incoming Grade 9 class was 175 students. This year, the Grade 9 class is 320 students and it is forecast to be larger next year, Held said.
“When a family enrolls their kid, they’re not making a decision for one year, they’re making a decision for multiple years. We’ve learned how important that is from TanenbaumCHAT and we’ve applied that to the Generations Scholarships.”
Eventually, federation intends to apply the lessons learned from the Generations Trust and extend funding to other areas of Jewish life, including summer camps and Israel trips, Held said.
The nine participating day schools are Associated Hebrew Schools, Bialik Hebrew Day School, Eitz Chaim Schools, The Joe Dwek Ohr HaEmet Sephardic School, The Leo Baeck Day School, Netivot HaTorah Day School, Paul Penna Downtown Jewish Day School, Robbins Hebrew Academy and The Toronto Heschel School.
For more information, visit generationstrust.ca