Northwest Yeshiva High School’s head of school Jason Feld calls it a blessing.
When he discussed the Samis Foundation’s new Day School Affordability Initiative with a large group of the Mercer Island school’s parents at a town hall on April 11, Feld said it received a positive reaction. He praised the foundation for making a bold move to bring the vital initiative to life for Northwest Yeshiva and six other Jewish day schools in the Seattle area beginning in the 2022-2023 academic year.
“It makes the promise of a Jewish education affordable for the vast majority of families who fall within a middle income range,” said Feld of the initiative, which the philanthropic organization announced to the public on April 6.
According to the foundation’s website, “the program ensures that for families who earn less than $350,000, tuition will not exceed $15,000/year per child or 15% of their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), whichever is lower.” At Northwest Yeshiva, tuition is $28,787 per student annually.
Once the cap of a family’s annual tuition costs is determined by utilizing an eligibility estimator, the family will pay only the adjusted amount, and the foundation will provide funds directly to the school to cover full tuition, according to a press release.
Through its research, Samis — which was launched in 1994 to fulfill the charitable mission and vision of Samuel Israel — learned that many families felt that the high cost of tuition squeezed them out of Jewish day school participation, said Connie Kanter, chief executive officer of the foundation.
“This program reduces the overall tuition burden, so families can choose Jewish day school now, and still feel comfortable planning for the future,” Kanter added.
Feld said that Northwest Yeshiva provides about $400,000 each year in tuition assistance for families that fall below the middle income range.
“We are very welcoming and eager to provide a high-quality Jewish high school experience for every single family that wants it,” Feld said of the school’s mission, which he noted has accelerated during the educational challenges of the pandemic.
Maria Erlitz, Samis board trustee, said they found that Seattle-area Jewish day school students’ performance and well-being soared during the pandemic by studying in small classes with high teacher engagement in a culturally supportive community.
“The way that the initiative is structured, we won’t have to sacrifice the excellence in academic programming or co-curriculars one iota. That’s important to us,” said Feld, adding that Northwest Yeshiva’s current enrollment stands at 55 students in grades 9-12 and will fluctuate between 53-65 in the foreseeable future.
Northwest Yeshiva, which is the only accredited Jewish high school to offer dual curriculum in the northwest, is situated on about four acres of school-owned land at 5017 90th Ave. SE.
The high school was founded in 1974 at shared space with the Seattle Hebrew Academy on Seattle’s Capitol Hill and moved onto Mercer Island in the late 1990s. It currently draws students from nine different zip codes, including the Island, Maple Valley, Woodinville, Bellevue and Seattle.
Feld said that enrollment has increased over the past few years, with students transferring from either public or private secular schools, and the school can accommodate about 110-120 students.
Graduating classes number anywhere from 10-16 students, which have notched an average grade-point average of 3.65 over the last few years and have earned more than $1 million merit-based grants for admission to such schools as Columbia University, New York University, University of Michigan, University of Washington, Boston University and more.
To view a Samis initiative application, visit https://samisfoundation.org/jewish-day-school-affordability-seattle/