Yeshivas Score Huge Pell Grant Windfall

Jewish Religious Colleges Get Tens of Millions in Federal Aid

Tax Dollars for Talmud: Jewish colleges are among the leading religious institutions receiving federal Pell Grant funding.
getty images
Tax Dollars for Talmud: Jewish colleges are among the leading religious institutions receiving federal Pell Grant funding.

By Paul Berger

Published October 31, 2012, issue of November 09, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Each year, tens of millions of dollars in federal Pell grants go to yeshivas, many of which focus primarily on Talmud study, a Forward review of U.S. Department of Education data reveals.

The Jewish colleges take their place among many other religion-oriented schools that receive Pell grant funds. But they punch far above their weight, according to the department’s statistics. Sixty-three of the 152 religious institutions that receive Pell grants are Jewish, the data shows. And these Jewish schools collectively received 53% of the $84.5 million in Pell grant money that went to religious schools in 2010, the most recent year for which final figures are available. Of the top 10 Pell grant recipients in dollar terms that year, six were yeshivas.

Jewish institutions were even more dominant when considered in terms of the percentage of students in each school receiving Pell grant aid; nine of the top 10 colleges in America, according to this criterion, are Jewish.

Pell grants, the government’s largest tuition aid program for low-income students, totaled $35 billion in 2011, making the sum going to religious schools a virtual drop in the bucket. About 9.5 million students received a Pell grant that year, with $5,550 being the maximum available for students to apply to their tuitions, depending on need.

Despite the program’s focus on aiding low-income students and the hope that it will improve their career prospects, there appears to be little oversight of yeshiva degree programs and few questions about whether the yeshivas are helping to haul low-income Jewish students out of dire economic straits. A recent study by UJA-Federation of New York found that Orthodox families were a rising demographic in the New York Jewish community, the nation’s largest, but suffered significantly higher poverty rates than non-Orthodox Jews.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.