Let’s Lower Tuition

Originally published on TorahMusings.com.

Day school tuition continues to rise five years after the affordability crisis began.  Avi Chai, PEJE, the Orthodox Union, Yeshiva University, the Kohelet Foundation, and many other organizations have devoted significant resources in an attempt to solve the affordability crisis, helping schools raise revenue, cut expenses, and become more efficient.  These organizations have helped schools become more sustainable, while providing more need-based scholarships.  Schools, however, are still not affordable, which can only be accomplished through lower tuition.

tuition2Education is expensive.  The United States spends anaverage of $11,000 a year per student with New York andNew Jersey more than $18,000 per pupil.  Jewish day schools have about a 40% longer day, requiring teachers, administrators, office staff, and books.  Jewish day schools are generally less expensive than independent schools, and on an hourly basis spend less per student than public school, making current tuition levels appropriate.

After 5 years are we making day schools more affordable? No, and we won’t until we address the problem correctly.

Schools are very labor intensive; with staff salaries and associated costs make up about 75% of a school’s budget.  Trying to save money on electricity or office supplies will yield minimal savings per student.  An ambitious school that will cut an extra curricular program, reduce elective offerings, and combine bus routes to save $100,000 will have lowered its tuition by $500, when dividing the savings amongst the 200 students.  This large savings will help the school become more sustainable, but not more affordable.

As an aside, for reducing costs by $100,000, the school principal and board members will receive countless complaints from those that will no longer have the educational opportunities or will need to wake up early for the new bus route.  If two students transfer out due to these changes and don’t pay tuition, the savings are significantly reduced, in addition to the negative PR created.

Only through reducing staff will tuition be lowered to an affordable level.  This might seem impossible considering that teachers facilitate the entire learning process.  They explain concepts, motivate, lead discussion, impart values, form relationships, and mentor.  Many times, teachers will seamlessly adjust their approach in response to a facial expression.  There are, however, many tasks for which a physical teacher is no longer necessary in this day and age.  We do not need teachers to create and grade vocabulary quizzes, mark routine math homework problems, or take attendance.  We should maximize the amount of time a teacher can devote to explain, motivate, and mentor.

Some major advances in technology now allow students to learn more independently and have a computer program perform many tasks that teachers normally do, but which they are not needed for.  As technology takes on these responsibilities, teachers have more time for more students.  Through leveraging technology, we can raise the student- teacher ratio without damaging our children’s education.

This educational model that integrates technology and education is called blended learning and when fully implemented can lower tuition by at least 30%, and possibly more, as schools will be able to achieve the same educational results with half as many staff.  The Christensen Institute has compiled a cost per student analysis of dozens of blended schools.  Some blended learning schools operate at similar costs as the local public school, but many operate at significantly lower cost per pupil.

Blended learning means more than having iPads or MOOCs in the classroom.  Blended learning achieves efficiency by having the more basic ideas initially taught through text, audio, and video and then having a robust assignment and assessment system measure student learning and guide next steps in the learning process.

There are even ways in which technology can perform better than teachers.  Technology can grade instantaneously and tracks student progress over a long period of time.  Testing reveals the specifics of what has been learned and what has not.  Armed with data-filled student profiles, teachers will no longer begin a lesson figuring out what students know and don’t know; they will have detailed test results.  Parents can also access this information to see their child’s development.

Imagine students having the tools to learn independently and therefore being able to learn at their own pace, achieving individualized education.  As they progress, students receive immediate feedback on their learning, to know whether they need to try again or move to the next unit.  Receiving updates, teachers will supervise the learning, provide accurate and immediate support, lead discussions about meaning and values, and otherwise motivate and mentor.  Teachers do not need to worry about balancing the class pace with the wide range of learners in the class.  While the teacher spends less quantity of time talking to the student in a group setting, the teacher has individual interactions with each student that are of a higher quantity and quality.

This style of learning should be familiar to anyone who studied in a Beit Midrash environment, where students learn independently, with teachers playing a supportive role and more available to form relationships.  The blended learning charter school Carpe Diem Academy has already created a Beit Midrash type room for learning.  This environment will allow teachers to teach a wider range of student, including students learning different levels of math like Algebra and Geometry.  In this dynamic environment, students will be able to collaborate (havruta), as will teachers, who will no longer be the only adult in the room.

In Great by Choice, Jim Collins stresses the importance of firing bullets, then cannonballs.  We need to test out ideas in a low risk environment before going all in.  Any school community that wants to lower its tuition should experiment with blended learning.  They should see how it works for one unit, in one subject, in one grade.  I would recommend starting with math where the technology is most developed.  A next step would be for a school to offer a $1000 tuition discount for a student to participate in a yearlong, higher student-teacher ratio, blended learning course.  As schools see success, they should continue integrating blended learning, which grow by leaps and bounds each year, and then pass the savings along to parents.

Until we lower tuition, families will feel burdened by the high cost of Jewish living.  The consistent featuring of day school affordability articles over the past five years speaks to the angst tuition causes and the past five years have not eased those anxieties.  Let’s start taking the steps to excellent and affordable Jewish education and lower tuition.

Feedback from Parents and Students

“We discovered TorahTutors.org for my twin 10 year-old daughters two years ago. The quality of learning has exceeded all expectations, and my daughters are engaged and stimulated throughout their classes. They have also bonded with their teacher who lives halfway across the country, and we will be having an online siyum in a few weeks!”
– KH, California
“TorahTutors is a wonderful option for families looking to enrich a child’s religious education in any way.  We are thrilled with the level of instruction and the personal connection our son has made with his teacher/Rebbe in Israel and the diligence our son has shown toward his learning.” – AC, Toronto
“I live far away from any major Jewish community and never had the chance to attend seminary. TorahTutors has given me the opportunity to learn text-based skills and analysis for over a year so far, and I’ve been able to see my skills improve more than I ever thought possible.”  – MK, New York

Chumash and Dinim – starting in September

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For 10-12 year olds!

I am delighted to announce that I will be teaching two weekly classes for 10-12 year-olds this fall! I have been in touch with many of you already …. and I need your prompt response to solidify days and times that work for you and your children.

Details are below, including scheduling options. I look forward to hearing from you!


Rabbi Meyers 

Halacha/Dinim: The course will focus on halachot of Orach Chayim, including Tefilah, Brachot, Hilchot Shabbat and Chagim. We will trace the halachot from the Mishna and Gemara if applicable, through the Shulchan Aruch and other commentaries, with a goal toward PRACTICAL applications.

Chumash with Rashi: The course will focus on accurate decoding and translation of pesukim; reading, translating and comprehension of Rashi; What issues were bothering Rashi in the pasuk and how does he solve these issues? We will add in select commentaries for comparison and contrast

Start Date: This fall, starting the week of Sept. 15th (first class will be later in the week) 

Each course will run throughout the year in ten-week sessions, with special adjustments to accommodate for the High Holidays, Succot and Simchat Torah – with an eye to the entire school year 

 The class work will include: 

– hour-long shiurim in the TorahTutors.org online classroom

– homework assignments, as well as custom-made tutorial videos for review and class preparation, mailed to your inbox.

– periodic quizzes


Halacha/Dinim: $125 for ten weeks 

Chumash: $125 for ten weeks

Instructor: Rabbi Ron-Ami Meyers

See below for our options for days/times


3:45  Pacific Time

[5:45 Central Time]

[6:45 Eastern Time] 

 Tuesdays and Thursdays

 either from 

3:45  Pacific Time

[5:45 Central Time]

[6:45 Eastern Time]


     4:50 Pacific Time 

    [6:50 Central Time]

    [7:50 Eastern Time]


Summer-Fall 2014 Course Listings

The High Holidays, Succot and Simchat Torah
A four-week mini-course on the halacha and hashkafa of our holidays for boys and girls ages 9 and 10
Once a week, starting in mid-August

Fifth Grade Girls Mishna and Navi with Sarah Rudolph
Our popular ten-week course that runs in four cycles, year-round Wednesday afternoons at 5:30 pm Pacific/7:30 pm Central/8:30 Eastern time
This group has been learning together for over a year and welcomes additional students!

Boys’ Mishna
Our popular ten-week course that runs in four cycles, year-round For 9-10 year olds
Students will be studying a Moed-related masechet during each of the four courses

Parshat Hashavua
Learn the narratives and mitzvot in the weekly Torah Portion in a fun and engaging style; our session will help kids prepare a Dvar Torah for the Shabbat table as well as supporting them in independent research on the coming Parsha
Two levels – every Thursday for boys and girls
Group A: ages 8-10
Group B: ages 11-12

Nuts and Bolts of Gemara with Rabbi Meyers
A 10-week course for boys ages 14-17, running in 4 cycles, year-round
With 25 years of teaching experience, including seven years online with Webyeshiva and TorahTutors, Rabbi Meyers fosters the development of independent learning skills using methods that he learned as a student of Rabbi Brovender and a rebbe at Yeshivat Darche Noam
Mondays-Thursdays 4:30 Pacific/6:30 Central/7:30 Eastern

Chumash and Rashi
A 10-week course, running in 4 cycles, year-round For boys and girls ages 9-12
In this course, we’ll focus on basic text-reading skills and translation, and ask the question, “What’s Bothering Rashi?”
The goal will be to show how each of Rashi’s comments on Chumash come to answer a fundamental “problem” in the logic or language of the Chumash text

Bar and Bat Mitzvah Preparation
For 11-year old girls and 12 year-old boys, separate classes – A six-month weekly class focusing on the Fundamentals of being Jewish, covering topics such as
What does it mean to become a Bar/Bat Mitzvah?
– The origins and meaning of Tefilah in our tradition; structure and meaning of the Shemone Esrei

– The Yoke of Heaven: The Structure and Meaning of the Shema

– The authority of Torah She Bechtav and Torah She Be’al Peh

– Laws of Berachot

– The Centrality of the land of Israel in Jewish belief

– Honoring Parents: Sources and Practical Applications

– V’ahavta Le’re’acha Kamocha: The Mitzvah to Love your Fellow Jew

What our Parents are saying…

We live in a community in which the Torah education is insufficient we discovered TorahTutors for my twin 10 year old daughters 2 years ago. The quality of learning has exceeded all expectations, and my daughters are engaged and stimulated throughout their classes. They have also bonded with their teacher who lives halfway across the country, and we will be having an online siyum in a few weeks! It is a great bonus that we can do this at home rather than racing to after school classes, and the interactive teaching modality is very motivating for the children. It is because of Torah tutors that we can remain in this community and our children can still become the talmidot of limudei kodesh that we all hoped they would be.

Karin H, California


TorahTutors has saved my sanity!  My kids enjoy their classes and participate–no whining or arguing.  The teachers are patient, enthusiastic, and resourceful, and they ask lots of questions to keep the kids engaged.  The children have learned things even I didn’t know, and they make connections with their learning.  Long after class is over, they will recognize a Hebrew word or an important concept from the lesson.  It’s wonderful to see their progress.

Here’s an example:  as we were getting ready for shul on Rosh Hashanah, I said something about Daddy blowing the shofar.  My six-year-old pointed out, “But Mommy, the mitzvah is to hear the shofar, not to blow it.”   She was remembering what Rabbi Meyers had said and applying it to the situation.  For parents, these moments bring great joy.

There’s no Jewish school where we live, so our kids attend public school.  Like most families, we are busy, and we don’t always find the time to do our Jewish learning.  With our Torah Tutors class and private session, I know that at least twice a week, the kids will have a class that delivers both fun and solid Jewish content.  I know that even when our home life gets chaotic, the kids are getting that foundation.  It’s a huge relief.

Eva Ginsburg, Urbana, Illinois


TorahTutors is a wonderful option for families looking to enrich a child’s religious education in any way.  We are thrilled with the level of instruction and the personal connection our son has made with his teacher/Rebbe in Israel and the diligence our son has shown toward his learning.  We are grateful to Rabbi Meyers for launching and leading the important initiative for Torah learning in the modern world.

Dr. Adam S. Cohen, Toronto Canada