This is how Brandeis Hebrew Academy reduced its tuition charges


Brandeis Hebrew Academy, in Lawrence, is hoping to give its families a financial break in the new academic year. Responding to an apparent increase in need for financial aid, the school decided to reduce its tuition charges.

The cost of kindergarten to eighth-grade programs at the school, on Frost Lane, will decrease by $495 to $3,798 this year. Leslie Gang, Brandeis’s director of communications, said that the school looks to other private Jewish schools in the area to compare tuition each year. With that in mind, Brandeis wanted to lower its tuition as much as possible.

“The cost of living, especially after the pandemic, has really been a struggle for parents in this community,” Gang said, “and many families looking for private-school tuition have multiple children, so even though families might be doing really well financially, when you look at all of the aspects, between groceries and electric and gas and taxes, and then you add private-school tuition, it’s a lot of money.”

One of the factors in the price drop was Brandeis’s work with Teach NYS, a branch of the Teach Coalition, an Orthodox Union organization that supports nonpublic schools by advocating for government funding.

While state funding through programs such as Teach NYS typically focuses on specific initiatives such as security improvements or STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) activities, it also gives Jewish day schools the chance to become more accessible to potential students.

“There is an existential crisis in the Jewish community — the sustainability of Jewish day schools and yeshivas,” Sydney Altfield, executive director of Teach NYS, wrote in an email. “In a recent Nishma study, over 80% of Jews, no matter their affiliation, cited that tuition affordability was the number one issue facing the Jewish community.” Nishma Research conducts studies in the Orthodox Jewish community.

Brandeis’s board of directors and the school administration collaborated on a plan to reduce both parents’ payments and school spending. “They look at what’s available and how to spend those funds,” Gang said. “The question will always arise, ‘Does this directly benefit our students?’”

While the school regularly receives private donations and endowments, the tuition reduction was not directly related to any large gifts. “We did this because this has been a need that our parents have been asking for, and when you see the struggle in the parents’ eyes, and every year, when you get the contract, it’s scary to see big numbers like that,” Gang said. “We had to do something, because that anxiety was not something we wanted parents to feel.”

The 2023-24 academic year is the first time Brandeis has offered a large tuition reduction, according to Gang, and the school has seen more interest in enrollment since the announcement in May.

“I think Brandeis has taken a unique and necessary stance by showing that they understand the concerns of those parents in the community who really want a Jewish education but struggle to make it work,” Lisa Vider, a board member and a Brandeis parent, wrote in an email.

The school also looks to add value to student life with new additions like the updated playground for the toddler program, which was completed in June, Gang noted.

It features a play center to help students to develop motor and balance schools, she added in an email. The structure meets state standards for children ages 2 to 4, and an older structure, for students in pre-kindergarten and older, will be in use as well.

“A lot of time these playgrounds, these outdoor spaces are where children make their friends, make their memories, share their laughs,” Gang said. “So it’s crucial that we’re providing them with a safe and enjoyable environment.”

Brandeis will welcome students back for another year of general and Judaic education on Sept. 6.