San Diego Jewish Academy new ‘Open Door’ program offers half-price tuition with vision towards sustainability


In an endeavor to make a top Jewish private school education affordable to an increasing number of families in San Diego while creating long-term sustainability, San Diego Jewish Academy (SDJA) recently announced its Open Door program beginning in the 2019/2020 school year. In this pilot year, the school will offer half-price tuition for children in kindergarten and 9th grade. SDJA’s vision in subsequent years is to offer half-price tuition across all grades, removing cost as a barrier for a world-class private school education.

“Open Door can be an absolute game changer for San Diego Jewish Academy to welcome families in the area who felt our school was beyond their reach,” says Chaim Heller, Head of School at San Diego Jewish Academy. “Now, more students can benefit from the world-class SDJA educational experience. Critically, we also will have more resources to continue to hire the best teachers and to offer more tuition assistance for all students at any grade. Everyone wins with this model as more families experience our welcoming, strong and vibrant community.”

SDJA contracted Fisheye Research to learn about the number of families in the area who might consider Jewish Day School at certain price points. According to their data, more than 1,100 Jewish families with children in San Diego would consider SDJA with tuition between $10,000 - $15,000.

A donor is funding Open Door for students entering the program in the 19/20 academic year. Half-price tuition continues for four years for those students as they matriculate into higher grades. At the same time, in order to continue to support and expand this program to all grades, SDJA is asking each family who is willing and capable to then donate that savings back to the Open Door program at the maximum amount they are capable of contributing.

“We are piloting this approach in two key grades, and then we plan to expand to all grades as enrollment targets are met,” Heller adds. “With the right combination of more families enrolling and contributing whatever cost savings they are able to, we are confident we can restructure the cost model for our school. The Open Door program is part of a larger vision that promotes accessibility and affordability for many families out there. This community-building endeavor can yield significant benefits for the Jewish community of San Diego.”

San Diego Jewish Academy is a pluralistic K-12 school with a 56-acre campus and with more than 550 students. SDJA’s Lower School recently was awarded the prestigious National Blue Ribbon Award for Academic Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education, indicating test scores in the top 15 percent of all schools nationally. The school is in the midst of its $15 million Our Family is One Campaign, which, along with increasing affordability for more families, positions the school as a cutting edge and world-class learning environment. Our Family is One enables SDJA to retain and hire outstanding educators from California and beyond, and to expand resources and learning opportunities, such as its new Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Thinking, which creates innovative real-world experiences and entrepreneurial environments for students.

“My family continues to experience the long-lasting, positive impact of SDJA first-hand,” says Alan Viterbi, a parent of SDJA graduates and previous president of the school’s Board of Trustees. “The high-level academics, the genuinely meaningful Jewish learning and experiences, and the powerful sense of community simply are second to none I am thrilled that Open Door enables more families to be a part of this warm and caring community.”

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