Day Schools Seen Reaping Savings In Efficiency Project

January 22, 2014

Source: The Jewish Week


Funded by the Avi Chai Foundation and local federations and foundations, YU’s Benchmarking and Financial Reengineering Project is working with 29 day schools across the country to improve their bottom line by helping them overhaul the business side of their institutions. As schools across the country fight to keep tuition affordable for families still struggling from the 2008 recession, the Benchmarking Program is a closely watched experiment in the day school community because of its unique approach. While there are many programs offering grants to help schools lower tuition, YU is taking more of a “teach a man to fish” approach, working closely with the schools in such areas as cost-cutting, fundraising and student recruitment.


The early results are encouraging: two-thirds of participating schools are on track to meet the programs’ goal of improving their bottom lines by 10 percent. So far the schools have increased their revenues by a total of $8.5 million over the first two years and cut costs by roughly $2 million more, according to YU.


But so far, the program is not a panacea; 11 of the schools are not on track to meet those goals, and four of them have shown no improvement at all.


In 2010, Bloom and his colleagues set up a pilot program in Bergen County and the next year expanded the program to Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Cherry Hill, N.J. In May seven Los Angeles schools joined the program.


Each school took on the goal of improving its finances by 10 percent over three years through a combination of cutting costs and increasing revenue. A goal low enough to be achievable, but high enough to make a concrete impact, said Bloom.


The partnership then collected detailed financial and enrollment data from each school, and then shared it with all the schools so each of could see how it stacked up in such areas as student/faculty ratios, teacher salaries, debt and annual fundraising.


Next a team of consultants guided the participants through the creation and implementation of a three-year strategic plan. A long-term plan was key, said James Moché, YU’s interim director of planning performing and improvement, who created the Benchmarking program with Bloom.


Each school figured out where it had the most room for improvement. Some schools focused on cutting expenses, some on student recruitment and retention and others on increasing donations.


Of the 36 schools that initially enrolled in the program, 29 actively participated, while seven dropped out in the first few months due to “major transitions in leadership”. Of the 29 remaining schools, 18 are “on track” toward making the 10 percent goal..


Most of the lagging schools are still working on getting both sides of the school leadership — the staff and the board — sufficiently involved.


Read more at The Jewish Week.

Updated: Mar. 05, 2014