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Jun 6, 2013

Will "American" yeshivas in Israel shut down due to budget cuts?

Among the budget cuts that Finance Minister Yair Lapid put into place is making extinct the budget for foreign students. Yeshivas with a significant percentage of foreign students, and the Mir Yeshiva is being used commonly in the media as the prime example, will be hit hard by this budget cut. While many yeshivas also charge tuition, in addition to the funding they receive per student from the government, there are some places, like the Mir, that do not charge tuition or just charge a nominal fee.

MK Menachem Eliezer Mozes (UTJ) spoke out against this specific budget cut fro the Knesset podium yesterday.

As I have said before, I do not know if this budget cut is good or bad, if it is justified or not. I think the issue is debatable, if a government that is strapped for cash should be funding foreign students or not. I see both sides of the argument, but I do not have an opinion as to which side is more justified.

Ladaat has the text of what Mozes said, and at least the main point is something I agree with, ..and I want to comment on just one point..

Mozes said, in not so few words, that this budget cut will save the government a paltry 35 million NIS. In the terms of a government budget that is basically peanuts. While the government spends hundreds of millions of shekels investing in bringing tourists to Israel because it spurs the economy and brings in foreign currency, for these yeshiva boys it should be a no-brainer. They invest nothing in bringing them as the boys come on their own and they survive here on their own. They rent apartments, they buy in the stores, they tour the country, their parents come to visit, they rent cars, rent hotel rooms, some get married and stay even longer, some buy apartments, etc.

So far so good. I agree with his main issue - the budget is tiny, and the small "investment" brings in a lot of tourism money. It does not make much sense to cancel this little budget item.

Mozes continues and says that canceling this budget is cutting off the branch on which we are sitting and is completely illogical. Doing so, Mozes says, will mean these boys will stop coming to Israel. There are no savings in this budget item cancellation, no ideals like "core curriculum", no need for encouragement to leave yeshiva and join the workforce, etc. The only reason to stop this funding is to be against people who learn torah and do mitzvos, etc. and goes on to finish talking about Yair Lapid's decrees against the haredim in general.

On this last paragraph of opposition, I disagree, for the most part. Why would the yeshiva boys and girls stop coming just because Lapid cut that small budget? I would be willing to bet that most yeshiva students do not even know, at least not when they decide to come (maybe somewhere during the year they figure it out), that the government gives money to the yeshiva because of them. Most of the yeshivas charge tuition - Mir and a few others are the exception rather than the rule - and the boys do not even think about government funding, let alone make their decision to come or not based on it.

The only reason boys would stop coming as a result of this budget cut is if yeshivas will have to shut down or close their foreign student program because of the loss of government funding. I do not believe any yeshiva will shut down because of it - they will find alternative sources of funding, and might even need to start charging tuition (maybe even just a small amount to make up for this budget cut if not full tuition).

This budget item is definitely important for the yeshivas, and it seems that there is not much gain in canceling it, but to be honest I highly doubt yeshiva students will stop coming to Israel because of it.
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11 comments:

  1. Why on earth would/ should the government pay for people to attend the Mir Yeshiva? If the yeshiva does not want to charge tuition, that's their problem! Who ever heard of a school that does not charge tuition, does not prepare its students for the job market (in fact, does precisely the opposite), and expects others to fund their tuition?!

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  2. You answered your own question. If a yeshiva needs to start charging tuition (or has to raise it), it will decrease the number of students who come. Simple economics.

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  3. I doubt that to be true. The attraction of the Mir is not that it has no, or almost no, tuition. Yeshivas like that are rare. Plenty of yeshiva students, boys and girls, come to Israel to study despite having to pay tuitions upwards of even $22k.. If the Mir charges a few thousand dollars to make up the shortfall from the government cuts, I doubt it would significantly impact the admissions numbers..

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    1. The attraction may not be that it's free, but it's definitely one of the attractions of it. Fewer and fewer families are able to pay such a high price. If the funding gets cut off and the students asked to foot the bill, more people will view going to the Mir (or any other Yeshiva in Israel) as optional, and the enrollment will decrease.

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  4. that is similar to the claim that if the govt reduces the child allowance, then the chareidim will stop having children (since the only reason that they do is in order to get rich on the 200 shekel a month)

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    1. Not at all. The decision of whether or not to have another kid is a lot more serious than whether or not to send someone to Israel to learn.

      When faced with the decision of whether or not sending a kid to learn in Israel is affordable, the cost of tuition is likely to be be a barrier. When faced with the decision of whether or not to have another kid, the reduction in child allowance is not.

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  5. note that this change does not affect the chutznikim learing in hesder yeshivot who will still be funded by the government.... there's shivyon for you...

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  6. or maybe, not that they will charge, than the less wealthy will not be able to afford the prestigious Mir.

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  7. BTW, the Mir started charging tuition. It's over $800/month, excluding dorm/dirah. They aren't just waving the fees. This could push the price up even more.

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  8. There are many smaller American yeshivas that charge tuition. However, a large part of their budget comes from the government. This is aside from their own fundraising efforts. Raising fees to higher levels will discourage parents from sending to EY in favor of cheaper local options.
    Even Mir has many bochurim that only stay on in EY because their parents can therefore afford to foot the more reasonable bills.
    All this should be obvious.

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  9. How much is the government budget for Birthright? Perhaps some wealthy Haredim can jump in and split the bill for the yeshiva program like Adelson and Bronfman share the cost of Birthright.

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