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The issue of waste, fraud and abuse in the Pell grant program has come to the fore in recent years, in particular when it comes to huge for-profit schools that swallow billions of dollars in Pell grants each year. These schools were criticized in a recent Senate inquiry that highlighted their poor retention and graduation rates.
Making the most of Pell grants is particularly relevant at the moment. The program has grown dramatically under the Obama administration, to $35.7 billion this year from $18.3 billion in 2008. President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney, have vowed to maintain levels of Pell spending. Yet neither has explained how he will plug a looming $7 billion shortfall in the Pell program in 2014.
Stephen Burd, a senior policy analyst with the New America Foundation’s education policy program, said the Obama administration has tried to curb abuse by introducing regulations that assess whether colleges provide “gainful employment” to their students. But these regulations, which were struck down by a federal judge last summer, apply only to for-profit colleges. Even if they were re-enacted, they would not apply to religious, not-for-profit schools.
The Forward called the top five Jewish institutions, which received a total of $27 million in Pell grants in 2010, to ask about their graduation and job placement figures.
Representatives of United Talmudical Seminary and Uta Mesivta of Kiryas Joel did not return calls for comment. Representatives of BMG and of Yeshivath Viznitz declined to speak to the Forward because, they said, the news organization has a bias against the ultra-Orthodox.
Rabbi Moshe Gluckowsky, financial aid director at Central Yeshiva Tomchei Tmimim Lubavitz, said he could see nothing “constructive” in discussing the school. “Whatever you see in the surveys is what you see,” Gluckowsky said.