Monday, June 2, 2008

Tell Me Why, Why,Why, Why

Prices go up as the years pass. So it has always been. Base salaries also go up as the years pass. Presumably salaries and expenses should be rising by the same amount. Presuming is in the same category as assuming, and you know what they say about assuming.

36 years ago a pound of kosher hamburger cost 39 cents in the Far Rockaway area. A pound of chicken was 19 cents. Today a pound of hamburger costs around $3.99 and a pound of chicken around $2.49 to $3.00. Back then gas was around 39 cents a gallon as well, with gas at $3.90 to $4.10 a gallon today. Still the consumer price index would show that the cost for these items has not gone up out of sync with salaries for the most part.

Now let's look at yeshiva tuition. In 1978 a year's tuition at both a Bais Yaakov school and at RJJ for boys was $300 per year for Kindergarten. In 1982 first grade at RJJ was slightly under $500 per year. In 1986 the first year tuition for Prospect Park High School was under $1000 per year.

Now fast forward to today. Kindergarten at TAG in Far Rockaway, for fall 2008 is $11,850, for a four year old. First grade at Shulamit, assuming they open, for fall of 2008 is slightly under $15,000. One year of high school at Flatbush Yeshiva is around $25,000.

Of all the products that frum people use and have to pay for, tuition is the only one that has risen at a rate out of sync with salary increases and with other products required to be purchased. In 36 years hamburger and gas have gotten 10 times more expensive. In 32 years kindergarten tuition has gotten 40 times more expensive. In only 22 years first year high school tuition has gotten to be 15 times as expensive. To put this in perspective, if hamburger and gas prices had risen at the same rate as school tuition you would be paying $15.60 cents per pound of hamburger or per gallon of gas.

So please, someone tell me why. Tell me what has changed so that tuition should not fall within a basic economic predictor of cost. Yes, I've heard of the basic supply vs. demand model. To my knowledge demand for yeshivas does not outstrip supply, so that cannot be the major component in the huge jump in tuition. I have my suspicions, one of which is the number of parents able to pay full tuition 36 years ago versus the number able to do so today. But perhaps we really do need to have full transparency in yeshiva costs and the input of lots of people with financial savvy to see what can be done about rising tuition costs.

Look at it this way: unless something is done to contain tuition costs, following the model of the last 32 years, in just 10 years from now a kindergartner will be paying $120,000.00 per year in tuition. Before you say that's never going to happen, please look back at that $300 per year that I paid in tuition "only" 32 years ago. My generation would have bet the farm that tuition could never reach today's prices.


Anonymous said...

Before someone decides to lynch me, I am not in favor of the rising costs of tuition. But I have to ask this--what if the cost of tuition back when you were paying $300 for a year was too low? What if back then something or someone else was keeping tuition costs lower than they would really have been without this outside help? One way to check is to see what private schools were charging back then. How close were yeshiva tuitions to their tuition?

Having said that yeshiva tuition is pricing many people out of that kind of education. There is a limit to how far they can go. I'd say that even one and a half times what they are charging now would close down the system.

Orthonomics said...

ProfK-We need an investigation into why prices were so low back in the day.

Like Allen, there must be a point when schools and the klal will buckle. I don't know what point that will be at. I guess it is an open nes business is still as usual.

Anonymous said...

Tuition, in private schools, yeshivas and colleges has gone up much faster than inflation for several reasons:

1) You cannot offset labor cost increases by increased productivity. It takes a third as many man hours to make a car as it did in the 1970's and the car lasts twice as long. Teachers have to work an hour to provide an hour of instruction, and you can't increase class size too much.

2) Teachers' salaries had been artificially low, because women had fewer other alternatives, thus increasing supply relative to demand. Women now have more options, so schools have to pay more to attract teachers.

3) As the tuition rises, the schools offer more aid. This makes the sticker price go up even faster

4) Despite all the grumbling, the market will bear it. When people stop paying the schools will work harder to cut costs.

Anonymous said...

There is one reason why tuition was cheaper years ago--the buildings. During the time frame you give schools have gone on a building boom. At the beginning of your time frame and before yeshivas and schools were not in custom built buildings. Many of them rented or bought old public schools that board of ed got rid of fairly cheap. They bought old business buildings and renovated for class use. The outside of the building wasn't awfully important. Play yards were pretty simple affairs--they were anything on the outside of the building, and lots didn't have any outdoor space. Space for parking spots? Didn't exist. Fancy auditoriums? Didn't exist. Fancy entrance halls? didn't exist. When money was donated to a school it was used for the students and some for basic upkeep. Today a lot of that donated money goes into building more and fancier buildings. Upkeepis also more expensive in these buildings. It may not be the only reason for the rise in tuition but it's part of the reason.

Anonymous said...

Mike is right with his third point. More people back then paid full tuition so the money was there to run the school. Today you have schools where almost everyone is getting some sort of tuition reduction so the few who do pay full tuition have to pay more to make up the difference.

It's also the size of the families. If a school back then got from one to three kids in from one family and they needed to drop tuition for that family that was less loss then when a family comes in today and gives you 5 or 6 kids that you have to drop tuition for.

Anonymous said...

Have you noticed that some summer camps charge almost as much for 2 months as a Yeshiva charges for 10 months?
Now, that really requires some thorough explanation.

-a friend

Anonymous said...

I asked my mom about the tuition back when she was in school and she said your figures are right. But she raised something I haven't heard mentioned before. Her parents would not have asked the school for any money off because it would have been shameful to admit they couldn't pay. They cut out meat except for shabbos and yomtov so they could pay. And they wouldn't have gone to the government for help because the immigrants from Europe came in really distrusting government. And it would have been shameful for someone else to know. Once when my grandfather lost his job they had to go to the yeshiva to ask for temporary help and my mother remembers that her father cried because he had to do it. And she says that when he was working again he saved like crazy and cut costs on everything and then he took the money the yeshiva had given him off and went and paid up the yeshiva.

I can't see that happening today. People openly talk about getting every government program they can and some they aren't really entitled to. They talk openly about getting tuition off. And I really wonder if anyone of these people ever even thinks about paying back the yeshiva when they have the money.

Anonymous said...

Interesting Sara because my grandmother felt the same way. She is always shaking her head when she hears of people whose answers to money problems is to go to the government or to ask schools for no tuition. When I ask her how they managed to save any money or to pay for everything when I know my grandfather worked in a factory and wasn't making much money she laughs. She tells me that she had one suit for shabbos and yom tov and she wore it until it couldn't be repaired any more. None of her friends looked funny at her because they all did the same thing. A boy first got a suit for his bar mitzvah. And then it was passed along to a brother or cousin or neighbor when it was too small. The bris for my father was in her house and was challah, herring and cake she baked herself.

Anonymous said...

You are generally right Mike with your first point but yeshivas have found a way around that. They are paying their teachers more and teachers are teaching more hours as a requirement of the job. Most of the frum schools run 6 days a week. The school day has gotten longer. The school year has gotten longer. They aren't making all that much more money today based on how long they had to work then.

And that is also a reason why tuition seems to have gone up faster then other things. A pound of meat and a gallon of gas are the same measurement today as they were back then. But a school day and week are not the same measurement. The schools are giving more instruction then they did then which has to be costing more, and so tuition would have to rise more then other things. Not as much as it seems to have risen but more then the 10 times for gas.

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof K.
You don't offer any stats about the difference between salaries then and salaries today. You are asking us to compare the price of goods then, to the the price of services now.
Economic current events 101 would tell you that the cost of goods is WAY down (for instance, the Honda Civic of today looks more expensive than the Accord of yesteryear, but it isn't quite: It has more goodies, and lasts EVEN longer (and my Accords are really holding up, (pupu), thus the Civic is a bargain).
Skilled services on the other hand? I would have bet on a sharp rise (students today demand more knowledgeable teachers, who must be able to speak well for the cause of religion, answer harder questions, etc.), but since you are the one who thinks otherwise, provide some data for why salaries are too high compared to other professions teachers are qualified to practice.
(PS, public school teachers make a lot more, especially considering benefits)
Liza Bennett

Anonymous said...

In my mom's school days even the largest school was nowhere near as large as some of the medium sized schools today. When you get more kids in a school you need more administration to keep track of everything and to organize the teachers. There are also special programs in the schools that weren't around then to deal with special needs kids. There were no special resource rooms back then. There were no computers and the expensive programs they need that are changed all the time. Tuition has to cover more things today then it did then. My mom says her school had a principal who took care of kodesh and chol and one secretary who took care of everything the principal didn't. Teachers volunteered for anything extra curricular. Not the case today.

Dave said...

Then the schools need to prioritize. What is necessary, what is nice.

I could have added lots of very nice options to my house. But that would have meant that I wouldn't have been able to pay for it.

ProfK said...

Regarding your statement:

I would have bet on a sharp rise (students today demand more knowledgeable teachers, who must be able to speak well for the cause of religion, answer harder questions, etc.), but since you are the one who thinks otherwise, provide some data for why salaries are too high compared to other professions teachers are qualified to practice.
(PS, public school teachers make a lot more, especially considering benefits)

I never said that teacher's salaries in yeshivas are too high. Trust me on this, having taught for many years in the yeshiva system I know that they are not high enough. But it is true that with every raise in salary for the teachers--and I'll stick to the secular studies teachers since that was my area--we also got a "raise" in duties to be performed. Yes, we were making more money but we were putting in more hours to do so. And we didn't get benefits either.

Re the demand for more knowledgeable teachers, the trend in many of the schools that are more to the right is to hire college students as their full time teachers for secular studies. They aren't as expensive to pay for. And they aren't as knowledgeable as those of us who taught with Masters degrees already finished. And some of those teachers are not even college students.

Public school teachers have always made more than teachers in yeshivas with rare exceptions.

Anonymous said...

I remember schools costing less back then. But anyway, you are overlooking a few things that changed.

1. Real estate prices. 32 years price of my house was around 50k, now its over 750k. If you follow the same ratio then tuition today should be 45k.

2. School day became longer and number of school days increased. This means that teachers would be paid twice to compensate for twice the work load. So, now tuition should be 90K

3. 32 years ago, air conditioners in schools and similar luxuries were unheard off. Now schools have air conditioners, many phone lines and phones, computers for both students and teachers, water filters, security system and etc.

4. 32 years ago government regulations were not as stringent as they are today. Schools have to pay more for the insurance, lead free water and lead free walls, therapists, safes for keeping government tests, and all other costs that come with being compliant with government regulations.

So, yeas the fact that schools are only 4 times mores expensive today than they were 32 years ago shows that they are running on a smaller budget.

ProfK said...

mlevin, that's 40 times as expensive. No argument that a lot of what is provided today was not provided then. Re the house prices, only in some areas does that figure hold. Brooklyn real estate has escalated at a faster rate then most other parts of the boroughs, Manhattan of course excepted.


You wanted "real" figures so I'll oblige. I taught English in a yeshiva high school for 14 years. I left in 1999. My salary then was $16,000 per year, no benefits. It was $12,000 per year when I began. In addition to teaching 4 classes per day I also had other responsibilities that came along with this "raised" salary. I was the HS liaison to the Albany Board of Regents. I went through all student records to see which students were meeting the state requirements for a HS diploma and which weren't. I met with each student to go over her record and advise where she would need to add in coursework. I was the advisor for when a student was leaving school early (mostly to Gateshead) on how to get a GED when they returned. I marked the Regents exams and helped other teachers mark their exams. At the end of the year the HS secretary and I prepared the State required Regents report. In addition, I vetted all material used by the other English teachers. Not exactly English but I developed the curriculum for a course in nutrition. I wrote letters for the principal when "high diction" was a necessity. I proofread material going to outside sources. I managed to get used computers donated to the school to replace our manual typewriters. I helped compile the NYSTL request lists. In short, that $4000 I got spread over the 14 years was nowhere near enough. Why did I stay? My husband was the main bread earner, my money was "extra," I could indulge myself in doing what I thought was a mitzvah, I had two children in school in Brooklyn and it meant that I was available there should they need me.

What did the person who replaced me get in salary? $10,000, because she wasn't a college grad and she wasn't going to be able to do all the extras. And the limudei kodesh teachers made far less in salary then I did--they, however, sent their kids to this yeshiva for nothing, so they actually made a lot more than I did.

Anonymous said...

Way lower then the public school teachers were making then, especially if you figure in benefits. Seems to me though that yeshivas might be charging what they have to charge given their schedules and dual teachers and all the other things. We won't know unless they are more open about their finances but they might be close to what it is costing them. That's a scary thought.

Anonymous said...

For those of who are home owners in the NY area, you'll have to add between 7k - 15k in the portion of property taxes that go to public schools

(Yes, some districts provide certain funds for private school busing and special ed, but you pay for these services whether you like it or not.)

So, if you're paying between 11k - 25k for yeshiva per child, you'll have to add thousands more to cover education-related services and pensions that you never asked to pay for.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12:06, I'm guessing that you are on Long Island because city real estate taxes aren't in the 7-15 thousand range altogether never mind as the portion paid for schooling. We pay $3400 a year for a single family home in Brooklyn.

Your point is valid though that we are paying for services in the schools that most yeshivas are not taking advantage of. They don't get their special ed programs through the school system but pay for it themselves. In that sense we are paying twice--the tuition to the yeshivas and the portion of our real estate taxes that go to support the public schools.