In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Jan. 11, 2010 / 25 Teves 5770

Tuition Refunds

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q. Tuition at my school is non-refundable if a student leaves mid-year. Is this a fair policy?

A. Choosing a school, whether for a degree or for a year of Jewish study, is an involved and agonizing process, and most people find a framework which is suited for them. However, it is impossible to have complete information about the study experience, and in addition people and places go through changes over time. So it is not surprising that there are always a few people who regret their choice and want to leave their place of study in mid-year.

What is the fair reimbursement process?

The simplest way of approaching this issue is to realize that a student is basically hiring the school to provide a variety of services: teaching, lodging, and so on. What then is the fair practice when someone leaves one of these agreements in mid-year?

The Talmud states:

One who hires works and they deceived him, or he deceived them [by reneging right away], they have only resentment against each other [but no claim for recompense]. This refers to a case when they didn't go [to the place of work]. But if the porters went and didn't find grain, if workers went and found the field soaked [and unsuitable for field work], he must give them their full wage. But one who goes loaded up is not the same as one who goes empty; one who works as one who sits idle. (1)

The passage goes on to explain as follows: If the boss or the worker reneges right away, this generally results only in disappointment and a bit of extra effort to find a replacement hire, but no monetary loss. So no recompense is due.

But if the workers actually go to the work site, chances are they will not find any other work that day. So the employer must pay them. On the other hand, they in fact didn't have to work — the porters had to travel the distance, but they didn't have to carry a load; the workers went to the field, but they didn't have to plow or pick. So they receive a somewhat reduced wage.

We can easily apply this law to your situation. A student leaves in the middle of the year. Can the school find a replacement with little extra effort? If so, this is the first case: there is disappointment and some elbow grease, but no monetary loss. In this case, the fair policy would be to just have a small fee to cover the extra administrative time and effort involved in finding a replacement.

Often it is impossible in the middle of the year to find a new student. In that case, we have to ask if the school incurred any costs in accepting the student, and if they have any savings by losing him or her. If the school has fixed enrollment and had to turn down another student to accept you, then you are costing them your full share of the overhead, though you still save them a certain share of fixed costs: your share of food, heating etc. In this case you would be entitled to a very small refund, because the school will save a very small fraction of what they spent or sacrificed to accept you in the first place.

If the school has variable enrollment, then the opposite will hold: the school incurred a very small cost in taking you on; almost your entire salary contributed either to overhead or to profit. In this case, you should be entitled to almost the entire sum. Only what you consumed already, or whatever marginal fixed costs were incurred (perhaps some staff are paid per student, or you necessitated an extra teacher for one course etc.) should be demanded.

It is understandable if the school doesn't wants to adopt an equitable policy, and not negotiate separately in each case. There is an appearance of inequity if the first student to withdraw gets nearly a full refund (because a replacement was found) but the second gets none (because a second replacement could not be found). Or vice versa: the first student gets a small refund (because one student was turned away) but the second gets nearly a full refund (because only one was turned away).

Furthermore, the school may not want to disclose what its precise admission or readmission polices are. But if there is a standard policy, it should take account the above considerations.

Many schools have a "no-refund" policy even though it is quite unusual that the student who leaves is truly a marginal student and no replacement can be found. Such a policy is not truly a refund policy; rather, it is a fine for leaving. Jewish law frowns on punitive fines. Consider the following Talmudic passage:

A person received land from his fellos [as a sharecropper]. He stipulated: If I leave it fallow, I will give you a thousand zuz [in lieu of the crop you would have received had I worked the land]. . . .Rava said, this is a hypothetical condition, and hypothetical conditions are not valid. How does Rava distinguish this from what we learned: "If I leave it fallow, I will pay you in the best produce" [and the condition is enforced]? In that case he did not exaggerate; in this case since he added an extra amount, it is an exaggeration [and his promise is an extravagant one]. (2)

A fine for improper conduct is acceptable if it is approximately commensurate with the loss caused. In the case of "I will pay you in the best produce" the fine is more perhaps than average, because not every sharecropper, and not every year, results in such a crop; but the fine is still reasonable and commensurate, and thus enforceable. But beyond that is not considered reasonable.

By the same token, it is legitimate for a school to adopt a standard policy that well protects them on the whole from the losses involved when a student leaves in mid-year. But in most cases an unvarying no-refund policy will not be fair.

SOURCES: (1) Babylonian Talmud, Bava Metzia 76b. (2) Babylonian Talmud, Bava Metzia 104b

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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology.


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