2014-01-22 / World News

South Jersey day schools offer generous aid; seek new funding


South Jersey’s day schools understand that for middleincome families, the steep price of a private-school education is a hardship both on the families and the schools’ financial health.

“Families that make substantial amounts of money often still need some kind of aid, and they get it,” said Scott Greenberg, Kellman Brown Academy (KBA) treasurer and father of three students. “As long as we think Kellman Brown Academy is the right place for a student, we do what we can to make sure the family can afford it.” Greenberg added that families who make upwards of $400,000, and have more than one child in day school, might still be eligible for assistance.

Exactly half of KBA’s 128 families receive tuition discounts, with the majority tapping into the school’s needbased assistance program to defray tuition, which ranges from $9,700 for kindergarten through $15,975 through middle school. Practicing discretion, only members of the financial assistance committee are privy to information about applicants. Moreover, annual costs for families with multiple children attending the Voorhees school are capped at $41,500.

At Politz Day School in Cherry Hill, the same philosophy applies.

“Politz is mission driven. Every child deserves and has a right to a Jewish education,” explained Rabbi Avraham Glustein, head of school. “We’re very aware of the pressures on middle class families. We don’t turn people away; we do give generous scholarships.”

Tuition ranges from $10,200 for kindergarten to $11,600 in middle school. Besides breaks based on financial need for more than half of its families, the school offers half off the tuition price in the first year for families newly transplanted to the area through the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Communities Home and Job Relocation Fair.

Yet to offer these tuition breaks, the schools are constantly in fundraising mode and seeking out new sources of revenue. Leaders of both KBA and Politz say building up larger endowments will be the key to ensuring the future of their schools. Several programs, offered with assistance from local and national Jewish sources, are already in the works to help.

The Jewish Community Foundation (JCF), an agency of the Jewish Federation, in 2013 launched the Jewish Day School Scholarship Endowment Fund. With a goal of eventually raising up to $2.5-million, the fund will receive $100,000 in matching funds from the Raymond & Gertrude R. Saltzman Foundation to get it off the ground.

The schools also are applying to participate in the newly launched LIFE & LEGACY program offered through JCF and funded by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. The JCF will work with up to 18 organizations to obtain new legacy gifts for endowment funds. The entities have not yet been selected.

The goal of both programs, said JCF Executive Director Jeff Klein, is to alleviate some of the fundraising burden on the schools.

“If they each had endowments of $1-million cash today, it would generate $50,000 a year for them that they wouldn’t have to raise through fundraising,” said Klein.

For now, however, the fundraising pressure is on. Last year, KBA raised some $400,000 through its annual campaign. Some 75 percent of families and staff contributed funds above and beyond their tuition payments, said Robyn Greenberg, director of development and Scott Greenberg’s wife. KBA is also reaching out to grandparents and alumni to support the cause. In addition, its Tribute Dinner, which this year will be held April 2, traditionally raises half the money for the year, she said.

This fundraising is vital, said Rabbi Moshe Schwartz, KBA head of school, because net tuition and fees cover only about 70 percent of the operating budget. While the campaign has been highly successful, increasing by 25 percent in the past two years and on pace to reach $500,000 this year, each year is a challenge to close the gap.

Politz is expecting to raise more than a half-million dollars to offset tuition costs, said Glustein.

In addition to the schools’ own financial assistance, several local Jewish organizations support the schools. The Saltzman Foundation, for example, subsidizes tuition for students at the schools. It sets aside $500,000 annually for families, who receive aid based on financial need, said Executive Director Stuart Alperin.

“The foundation board believes that day schools provide a very important service to the Jewish community,” said Alperin. “Given the high costs of running a school and the current problems in the economy, we want to do what we can to help remove or lessen the barrier for those people who have moderate incomes.”

The Kohelet Foundation is another avenue for tuition assistance. Both schools have families participating in two-year “fellowships.” As fellows, families are required to study Jewish text and participate in community learning events while getting tuition breaks.

While raising money to offset costs is a constant, Glustein said the need for thriving day schools has never been more important.

“Informed Jews are the best leaders and that’s really the mission of day schools,” he said. “My philosophy is, as Judaism becomes more diverse and America more accepting of Jews, it’s so much easier to melt into the mainstream of America. Jewish education is critical to help us maintain our identity.” .

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