MK Zvulun Orlev, chairman of the Knesset subcommittee on Torah education, has set up a panel that will examine the high tuition costs paid by parents whose children study in Yeshiva high schools and Ulpanot for girls. “I have been inundated by a flood of cries for help from parents who cannot afford to pay the tuition demanded by schools. Many parents who would like to send their children to religious schools cannot afford to do so. And parents who can afford to pay are demanding more transparency and information about how their money is being spent,” Orlev said.
It should be noted that yeshiva education in Israel is far less expensive than it is most parts of the world, especially in the United States, where annual tuition for teenagers in Yeshiva high schools can reach as much as $20,000 a year – even with the “discount,” schools charge between $10,000 and $15,000 per student per year. In Israel, the maximum tuition in Yeshiva high schools for boys and Ulpanot schools for girls is about NIS 12,000 (about $3,200) per year; that sum includes dormitory and meal costs, as well as transportation. For schools that do not include dormitories, the tuition is closer to NIS 4,000 – 5,000 ($1,100 - $1,400) per year per student.
Nevertheless, many parents are having a hard time paying tuition – often because they had many children in school at the same time - Orlev said, and the committee he was establishing would seek ways to cut costs for parents. The committee would examine the elements of school budgets, as well as investigate whether the schools were getting the full amount of government benefits and payments due them.
Elchanan Glatt, Chairman of the Bnei Akiva Yeshivot in Israel, said he enthusiastically supported Orlev's plan. “The current situation is not good for parents or schools, and change is needed. These changes will only benefit religious education in Israel.” Much of the blame for the high tuition is because of the government, Glatt said; in the past, schools were funded for as much as NIS 320 per student, and today the schools receive only NIS 80 per student.
Orlev said that the committee would complete its research within three months, after which it would make specific suggestions on cutting tuition costs.