Trending in the Jewish Day School Field: Tuition Grant Programs

by Ross Bloom

2012 has seen the release of a number of regional Jewish day school tuition grant programs. While these programs vary in terms of how they’re funded, who qualifies, and what percentage of tuition is being paid for, they all aim to transform the affordability issue from a liability into a way to welcome new families. They also give schools a chance to promote their value and connect with the community in meaningful ways.

Schools and communities have used many tactics to address the affordability issue, but the regional approach is one that has been gaining traction in recent years. Here are a few examples of communities that are implementing tuition grant programs:

Milwaukee. Milwaukee Jewish Day School recently announced an anonymous donation that is funding tuition grants for the school. The Building Our Future Program provides grants to both current and prospective students, including a first-year free tuition opportunity for new students. The amount of grant money available for each student depends on their grade level and whether they are current or prospective students at the school.

Philadelphia. The Kohelet Foundation has teamed up with nine schools to form the Jewish Day School Collaborative of Greater Philadelphia. The Collaborative provides grants for one-third of the day school tuition after financial aid, for up to four years in elementary school; three years in middle school; and four years in high school. The qualifications vary slightly based on whether a student is in elementary, middle, or high school.

Syracuse. The Jewish Community Foundation of Central New York has created the Central New York Discover Day School Fund to provide tuition grants to families attending Syracuse Hebrew Day School in Dewitt, New York. The grants provide $2,500 for three years to the “first in family” attending SHDS.

These tuition grant programs are but three in a series of similar affordability efforts that have been popping up across North America in recent years. Boston is currently entering the second year of its Discover Day School grant program, which provides money for the first child in a family to attend a local day school. Similarly, the Jewish Day School of Metropolitan Seattle created a New Student Discovery Grants program to attract new families to the school. In Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Jewish Day School Council, like Milwaukee Jewish Day School, has offered free tuition for families transferring to any of its three schools in grades 3-11. The schools have enrolled over ten new students as a result. In Calgary, Akiva Academy has likewise promoted a three-year free tuition program for families that relocate to Calgary from another city. Note that the “grant” model is just one of many tuition strategies. Day schools also partner with foundations, central agencies for Jewish education, federations, donors, and other local organizations to develop other ways to address day school affordability.

As day school affordability continues to be a challenge across North America, communities are developing innovative strategies that fit with their local needs. What’s particularly great about these particular programs is that it they give schools the opportunity to project positive messages about the value of day school while reducing the actual cost. We look forward to learning more about the impact of these programs as they grow and develop!

Ross Bloom is the Program Associate for Regional Advocacy at the Partnership for Excellence for Jewish Education. This piece is cross-posted at the PEJE Blog.