The six-year initiative, designed to serve as a demonstration project, aimed to stabilize and incrementally increase the enrollment of students from middle-income families attending five Jewish high schools in Los Angeles. In addition, the Initiative is intended to help participating schools build capacity to support tuition subsidies in the future through the creation of endowment funds.
> IMPLEMENTATION OF LAHSAI
The impact of the middle-income tuition assistance grant through the initiative has been significant on several levels. Some key lessons include:
The process of clearly defining and demonstrating middle-income need within the context of day school affordability was a key factor in shifting the perception of who should be provided financial aid.
The availability of funding specifically for middle-income families, coupled with marketing and outreach to eligible families, has helped overcome the stigma of asking for financial aid.
At the same time, schools now more deeply understand the imperative to provide financial support to this population.
While enrollment has not increased, you will hear in the interviews below that—had it not been for this initiative—enrollment would have decreased precipitously. Instead, this grant enabled many families, who would have had to leave schools, to continue sending their children to one of the five participating schools.
Initially, the LAHSAI included a mechina service component, with the assumption that both parents and schools would be hesitant to enroll students “new” to the day school system due to varying levels of Hebrew and Judaic backgrounds. Schools were asked to determine individual mechina service needs based on their current staffing and anticipated enrollment of new students with varying backgrounds. It was determined early on that these services were not needed as some schools had already integrated different levels of Judaica within their academic structure.
> RAISING ENDOWMENT
Because of the nature and larger size of endowment giving, the schools were given both pledge and deposit benchmarking. This structure was intentional to allow donors to pay off significant pledges over a longer period of time as well as acknowledge the fact that endowment development is a long-term process. In Year 5 of the project, all five high schools have made significant progress towards reaching their six-year pledge and deposit benchmarks. Most importantly, all of the schools have succeeded in shifting their approach to development to include the building of endowments and a number of the school leaders have expressed interest in continuing to raise endowment dollars beyond the benchmarks. BJE has observed that schools now understand the importance of endowments to ensure the future of their respective institutions. Meeting the yearly cash deposit benchmark continues to be a challenge at three of the schools. To date the five schools have secured a total of $13,502,683 in pledges, and of that, $4,945,264 has been deposited at the Jewish Community Foundation.
> RECRUITMENT & ENROLLMENT
Increasing enrollment has been an elusive goal in the first four years of the grant. Demographic shifts and a very challenging economy between 2008 – 2011 had significant impact and schools have struggled to maintain their enrollment levels. All of the high schools have emphasized the impact that the middle-income tuition subsidies have had on preventing further erosion of enrollment. Overall, enrollment for the five schools declined 6.6%.
Enrollment issues are further complicated by increases in school tuition. Maintaining high level faculty and remaining up-to-date with technology are costly propositions, and schools have struggled to keep tuition increases at a moderate level. Overall, average increases in tuition per year have been slightly under 5%.
Number of Students Served
BJE has carefully tracked and collected follow-up data on all students who have received tuition subsidies over the past four years. (Year 5 is still in progress). A large majority of the students who started out as LAHSA initiative tuition subsidy recipients remained in the program until graduation. With the exception of those whose family income changed, only 4% dropped out of Jewish High School.
A total of 300 individual students have received tuition assistance thus far.
Number of Year-Units of Support
It is important to note that, in most cases, individual students were served over a number of years. The charts below illustrate the total number of Year-Units of support, by school and by years of support, as of Year 5.
> CHANGING THE COMMUNAL CULTURE
In 2008, when the High School Affordability Initiative began, none of the five high schools had endowments and the majority of middle income families, as defined by the initiative, were not being considered for financial aid. The data BJE was able to provide to define middle income families in need of financial assistance (link to “Defining Affordability”), together with the marketing messaging and materials (link to “Model Components: Scaffolding for Implementation”) proved compelling to the community and began to shift the culture of families applying for and being considered for tuition assistance. However, changing the culture towards endowment development proved to be much more difficult and time consuming.