HARTSDALE, N.Y. ‒ Solomon Schechter of Westchester in Hartsdale seems to have found a way to dodge the toll the recession has taken on other private schools.
New York private school enrollment has dropped by 38,000 students from 2007 to 2012, according to the New York State Education Department. But enrollment has remained steady at Solomon Schechter, where tuition has reached roughly $30,000 and at least half the 280 students receive some type of financial assistance.
As part of its merit scholarship program, the all- Jewish school allows prospective students with high academic marks to apply for a full four-year ride.
"Schools are becoming more expensive to run, and we're very sensitive to the issue. We're very conscious of affordability issues," said Principal Eric Bassin. "Numbers have been steady despite the state of the economy."
Tuition assistance is also funded by an annual campaign that raises money for qualifying families in need of financial aid, said Sheila Yossem, Schechter Communications Director. Without the annual campaign, "the choices for our school would be dramatically impacted, and tuition would increase to an even greater degree," according to Schechter's website.
The fund reaches out to parents, alumni and alumni parents, grandparents and faculty for contributions, the site reads.
"Tuition alone does not cover the full cost of providing a quality Jewish day school education at Schechter Westchester," Yossem said. "This translates into a gap per child between the tuition families pay and the actual cost of the education. We rely upon the Schechter Annual Fund to bridge this gap."
Schechter also promises students a strong academic future ‒ 2012 SAT scores show that students are scoring between 150 and 200 points above the national mean. Students are in school at least an hour longer than those in surrounding public schools. The day starts at 8:10 a.m. and finishes at 4:20 p.m.
Yet Dr. Elliot Spiegel, head of Schechter Westchester schools, likes to think of it as more than just a college-preparatory school.
"We're a very values-oriented institution," Spiegel said. "It's attracting a lot of kids from the public schools into our high school."
The all-Jewish school is one-of-a-kind in the area, Spiegel added, receiving students who live up to 75 miles away. Spiegel said many Jewish families are attracted to the dual-curriculum, where students learn Hebrew and Aramaic language, grammar and customs.