Here’s another take on the tuition crunch: Last week, the Jewish Advocate reported that putting one child through day school from K-12 costs $180,000 for the family, at least in the Boston area. That astronomical number gives grounds for posts like these.
It also brought to mind an article I read a few years back about a new form of “birth control” used in Jewish circles. It seems that some young families, troubled by the high cost of day schools coupled with their concern that their children stay within the framework of formal Jewish education, are opting to have fewer children than they’d like. The argument, in short, goes like this: “We can’t compromise on Jewish education for our children. At the same time, we make enough money to be charged full tuition, but if we pay full tuition for four children, we’d have to live on an extremely tight budget. So we’ll have two. Three, tops.”
That in mind, I conducted an informal and admittedly, not very scientific, survey of some young families I know on the East Coast. They are all middle class professionals – lawyers, doctors, software designers, etc. The results weren’t too encouraging—almost everyone mentioned it as a concern, and more than half said it was a significant factor in their family planning and that they weren’t going to have more than three children as a result and even that was a stretch.
Let’s not get into a discussion about the values involved in decisions like these, or the various options available to help finance your kids through schools (even if there are enough tuition breaks out there, perception is sometimes more important than reality). What’s clear is that this is actually happening, possibly in your neighborhood. So what is this going to do to American Jewish demography? Yes, there will be Orthodox families who aren’t going to let tuition influence family planning (some of those families will eventually make aliyah, in part to eliminate the need to pay day school tuition). And yes, there will be families who wouldn’t send their kids to day school anyway. But there will also be mainstream committed families--the ones whose kids have a lower chance of intermarrying because they're in day schools--who will have less children because of financial constraints imposed upon them by their Jewish commitment. So what does this mean for Jewish America?