The LAHSAI aimed to address numerous challenges confronting the Los Angeles Jewish community: the high cost of Jewish living for middle income families, escalating day high school tuition costs, the schools’ perception of who needs financial need and the limited fundraising and endowment capacity to provide the projected financial assistance needed. Further compounding these issues was the economic downturn that took place just as the initiative launched and which resulted in additional pressures, including declining enrollment in Jewish day schools and increasing numbers of Jews attending public and home schools.
This section provides a snapshot of the environment within which the LAHSAI model was created and launched. Click on each section to read further about each trend:
> RECRUITMENT & RETENTION TRENDS
When the initiative launched during the 2007-2008 school year, the 5 Jewish high schools affiliated with BJE enrolled 2,576 students or roughly 12.9% of the Jewish, high school aged cohort of teens. We estimate that a similar percentage of students were enrolled in private non-Jewish schools but the vast majority was enrolled in public school. Since the high of 2,610 students enrolled in Jewish high schools in 2008-2009 there has been a steady decline in enrollment.
Several demographic, economic and alternative education trends related to recruitment and retention challenges helped to inform the development of the model:
Declining birthrate resulting in fewer high school-age Jews and thus a smaller pool from which to recruit Jewish students
Virtual-based learning and home schooling models became a more financially viable option for a segment of families that might have otherwise considered day school
A significant percentage of 11th and 12th grade students chose to take their General Education Development Tests in order to obtain a high school diploma and attend community college, rather than graduate from high school. This option not only significantly reduces tuition costs but also increases a student’s chances of being admitted to one of the University of California system schools.
Opening of several other orthodox Jewish high schools with lower tuitions.
For many families, the decision to ultimately opt-out of a Jewish high school education, transfer to a lower cost school or take a high school equivalency test rather than get a high school diploma, was (and continues to be) due to the high cost of private Jewish education and the limited scholarship dollars available in the system.
> TUITION & COST TRENDS
The 2007-2008 total operating budgets of the five schools was $33,259,036. Of the students enrolled, 23% received some type of need-based financial aid totaling $4,039,740 or 12% of the schools’ combined budget.
When the program launched, a family sending one child to one of the five participating schools in the initiative faced an annual tuition cost ranging from $19,975 to $26,900. By fall of 2013, that same family was paying between $26,000 and $36,000 – a nearly 24% increase in just five years. In the years since the initiative launched, as financial situations have improved for a segment of the population, we have seen more families able to pay a greater percentage of tuition; however, those families who have not recovered from the economic downturn still need even more financial aid as tuitions continue to rise at over 7% per year.
> FINANCIAL AID TRENDS
Prior to the launch of the initiative, the vast majority of Los Angeles schools would not consider families who earned more than $150k annually for need-based financial assistance. In addition, many schools capped tuition assistance at no more than 50% of tuition. The perception of affordability, for both prospective families and the schools, was out of touch with reality: families believed that they could not even apply for financial aid because their annual income was too high and financial aid distribution trends supported that perception.
The economic downturn came on the coattails of the launch of the initiative in 2008 and over the next six years, financial aid trends began to shift [insert graphic of % of student receiving financial aid]. From 2008-2012, Orthodox yeshivot increased financial aid budgets from $22 million to $26 million; however, the largest shift was among non-orthodox schools whose need-based financial aid went from $6.7 million to $16.2 million.
> ENDOWMENT DEVELOPMENT
As a relatively young community, with the longest running day school in existence for just over 50 years, the vast majority of schools in Los Angeles have only recently emerged from a “start-up” phase that did not include the foresight of establishing endowment funds. In 2008, only 3 Jewish day schools in Los Angeles had endowment funds and none had actively solicited endowment gifts; rather, the endowments were a result of rolled over surpluses or a surprise bequest. There was no culture of endowment or planned giving and few schools had created a development infrastructure to think strategically, beyond annual giving, to diversify revenue streams and address long-term sustainability.