HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
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Paul Shaviv’s article “Tuition Assistance Headaches” in the autumn issue gives information and conclusions which serve to perpetuate the dysfunctional nature of most of the financial aid systems in existence today.
It is the greatest fallacy that financial aid “costs” the school anything; in fact, it is a financial benefit to the school and to full paying parents. School leaders should ask themselves the following question: Did you have the ability to fill all seats in your school with full paying students? If the answer is no, the school has two choices: 1) Leave the seat empty = no income + no expenses; 2) Fill the seat with a partial paying student = Partial Income + no expenses. Which make greater financial sense?
The second greatest fallacy is that full-fee paying parents subsidize others on reduced tuition. In order to cover their operating budgets, schools must generate enough enrollment to significantly reduce the cost that each student must bear. For example, in a school with an operating budget of $5,000,000 and 500 students, the cost per student is $10,000. If enrollment decreases to 450 students, the cost per student rises to $11,111. Schools cannot easily reduce costs because they work in large-step variable-cost functions: as they add classrooms or sections, they add large cost increments which cannot be neatly reduced when enrollment is lost. Therefore, the key operating strategy is to optimize classroom capacity with as many students as our mission statements permit.
When a published article presents fallacies such as these, it promotes the policies and systems which have effectively squeezed out over 35% of the middle class from Jewish schools.
Eric Amar, Montreal, Quebec
Paul Shaviv replies:
Eric Amar’s views are only partially accurate—if at all—for elementary / middle schools, but do not apply at all to high schools. In every school, additional students generate overheads in administration, support staff, facilities and many other not-so-obvious operational costs. Their tuition may or may not cover the real costs of their presence in the school. (For example, it is clearly more expensive to run a school for, say, 550 students than a school for 400.)
In a high school, which deals with courses and not classes, the above applies, but, in addition, extra numbers of students are directly costly. No one would suggest discriminating against students on tuition assistance (“You can’t exercise your choice of courses because you don’t pay full fees”), so a school may well be forced to split classes, or provide uneconomic courses, to accommodate them. What does Mr. Amar suggest doing when the school minimum number of students to run a 12th grade elective is, say, ten students; eleven students choose the course, of whom six are full fee-paying, and five are on tuition assistance?
Plus, experience suggests that for well-documented reasons, students from families eligible for tuition assistance may request textbook subsidies, subsidies for school trips and many other additional costs. (In extreme cases, our school has also occasionally discreetly helped students with personal needs as well—in effect, tuition assistance of over 100%.) Tuition assistance is a real cost; I am afraid Mr. Amar’s argument is simply not borne out by reality.♦
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