Tuesday, January 23, 2018

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In last week’s issue (October 26, 2017), Mitch Morrison (“Half the Tuition, Half the Expectation,”) and Rabbi Tomer Ronen (“A Solution to the Tuition Crisis,”) wrote articles about tuition, the former directly in response to my article in the previous week’s issue (“The Hidden Cost of Tuition,” October 19, 2017). Both articles are thoughtful discussions of the issue. Mitch Morrison highlighted many good reasons to pursue excellence in education. I am all for excellence in education as long as we mitigate the costs, not just in dollars but in people. Quality of education is a spectrum that never ends. We can hire a team of professors to tutor each student individually and we can put all children of all ages into a single room with an untrained teacher. We have to balance cost and quality, recognizing that there will always be opportunity for better education but sometimes we have to say no to prevent the cost from becoming prohibitive. For too many people, the cost today is prohibitive.

Orthodoxy has to decide whether it will be an elite club of the upper class. In Israel, there are Orthodox bus drivers, sanitation workers and artists. We see little of that in the US because generally people with those careers cannot afford to be part of the Orthodox community. That is a hidden cost beyond the sticker price of tuition.

In a prior article, I mentioned discussion of the “tuition crisis” in 1995. Twenty-two years later, it has only gotten worse. However, there are pockets of progress. Rabbi Tomer Ronen describes the innovative approaches his school takes to offer quality education at a significantly lower cost. I applaud the school’s efforts and hope other schools take similar measures. I am less concerned with the specific educational approach than with the sharply decreased tuition and its impact on the dignity and happiness of struggling families.

Rabbi Gil Student