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The report showed that only one non-Jewish institution, Nyack College, a Christian liberal arts school with an undergraduate seminary track, applied for funds in the first half of 2012. The remaining schools — 32 out of the 33 that received funds — were yeshivas.
Dona Schepens, Nyack’s assistant treasurer, said the reason the college applied under the new rules is so that its pastoral ministry majors and youth and family ministry majors could claim the same grants as their peers in secular academic programs. Schepens said that nine students collected a total of $8,200.
The remainder of New York’s $9 million in TAP funds to theological students went to yeshiva scholars. An HESC employee initially told the Forward that the organization would release a breakdown of how much each yeshiva received after HESC published its annual report. But after the report was published, an HESC spokesman declined both the Forward’s request and also declined to explain why the request was denied.
New York’s TAP is among the largest state financial aid programs in the country for low-income students. During the past academic year, the HESC report estimated, New York State paid $920 million in grants to almost 400,000 students.
The program has struggled in recent years. In 2010 it had to cut awards to all students by 2%. That same year, New York State ended a modest TAP program for graduates, costing about $3 million annually.
Such cost-cutting measures are not unusual. Paul Lingenfelter, president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers, said states have struggled for decades to keep up with rising enrollment and with inflation. In New York, enrollment in public postsecondary education has increased by 37% since 2000.
Kantrowitz said states usually save money by reducing their grants or by tightening eligibility rules. He voiced surprise at New York’s decision to expand eligibility while it was struggling to fund the program.
“It’s a drop in the bucket in terms of percentage of overall funding,” Kantrowitz said of the estimated $18 million that will go to yeshiva students next year, “but still, every penny counts when they are trying to make ends meet.”