Here’s what happens when you write that magic number down, the one you have searched your soul and wracked your brain to find.
Step 1 (parents): Fill in the blank to complete this humble supplication: “We are unable to pay the full tuition fee and therefore request financial assistance. We offer to pay a family tuition fee of $_____ for the school year 2010/2011…” Think long and hard. Pick a number that is so high it hurts. Pick a number that will allow you to continue educating your other high schooler, whose tuition is NOT included in this magic number.
Now the fun part. Are you the PARENTS or the SCHOOL? Choose one:
Step 2 (parents): Wait patiently for reply. Try not to develop an ulcer. While you’re waiting, toss hundreds of dollars around to pay for textbooks, uniforms, socks and other school necessities. Try not to cry. Try to pay a few bills and buy groceries even while desperately hanging onto the money. Splurge: $200 for Greyhound tickets to go to NYC for one of your best friends’ son’s wedding. Feel guilty for taking a “vacation,” even if it will involve sleeping on a bus – TWICE.
Step 2 (school): Convene Tuition Committee to frolic and laugh at the Magic Number, which is clearly a LIE. The parents must be hiding their money under the mattress somewhere (or maybe they just haven’t tapped into that world Jewish banking conspiracy!). Assess tuition at 45% higher than the Magic Number. Tack on a $263 book fee; tack on a $500 Student Council fee. $1000 in school supplies is nothing compared to the benefit of a fine education, right? “I bet they’re hopping on a Greyhound right now with that school-uniform money,” someone chortles.
Step 3 (parents): Cry. Pay up anyway. Cry when the cheques bounce at Pesach time: yes, Daddy, a bounced cheque is a broken promise. Yes, I feel like scum of the earth for doing it. But is it really a promise if you make it under coercion? If they hold your kids ransom?
Secretly, there is an unwritten Step 4: Appeal. I’ve done it before… it’s slow and unpleasant and the results not good enough to make it worthwhile. And now, I’m tired. I give up. Or maybe I’m just saving my energy so I can do it all over again next year.