Earlier this year, AVI CHAI published a census of Jewish day schools for the 2008-2009 school that was conducted by Dr. Marvin Schick. Dr. Schick found a total of over 228,000 students in day schools. This represented an enrollment growth of 23,000 students compared with five years ago, and 43,000 from a decade ago. The majority of these students are in Chassidic and yeshiva world schools, which account for the majority of the growth in the last decade. However, as compared with 10 years ago, other Orthodox schools and the Community day schools have also grown over time. Non-Orthodox day school enrollment is up 5% from a decade ago, even after a decline of 2.5% over the past five years.
The question raised frequently in the press and around day school tables across the country has been how the current economic crisis is affecting day school enrollments. There were widespread predictions of significant enrollment decline, including in the Modern Orthodox sector.
Five organizations have now collected data about the change in day school enrollment from 2008-2009 to 2009-2010.
The data from each organization is informative, and when looking at all the pieces, a picture emerges about the state of enrollment in the day school field.
Sources of Data:
PARDeS (Progressive Association of Reform Day Schools)
RAVSAK (Jewish Community Day School Network)
SSDSA (Solomon Schechter Day School Association)
Dr. Marvin Schick data (for AVI CHAI)
Across the board, enrollment has dropped from 2008-2009 to 2009-2010. Many schools experienced a modest drop and some schools saw a modest increase in enrollment. A few schools experienced significant drops.
Some initial patterns have been observed:
- Not as large a drop as feared
For schools with enrollment over 250, total enrollment dropped an average of 3%. This is lower than many had feared last year.
- Smaller schools suffering more
When looked as a whole, total enrollment in RAVSAK schools decreased, though the drop was greatest in the schools with enrollment under 100, where enrollment dropped over 7%. The vulnerability of small schools has been well-documented, even in the best of economic environments.
- Increased financial aid
SSDSA schools report a 14.9% increase in the amount of tuition assistance. Five of the 16 PARDeS schools benefited from Jim Joseph Foundation emergency aid. With the exception of Cleveland, each community in PEJE’s data reported increases in the amount of financial aid awarded. Boston’s 2% drop in enrollment benefitted from a 24% increase in financial aid awards. Phoenix drop of 3.2% was accompanied by a 15% increase in awards amounts.