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In fact, TAP payments to religious students represented just 1% of total TAP expenditure during the 2011-12 academic year. But payments to individual Orthodox students were on average considerably higher than to those at secular schools.
Full-time degree program students at The State University of New York and The City University of New York received average grants of $2,500 and $3,400, respectively. Yeshiva students were awarded an average of $2,250 for just half a year, meaning that they are likely to be awarded about $4,500 for a full year during the current academic cycle.
HESC’s Warren said that the discrepancy was “driven primarily by income.” The most likely reason that students in the yeshiva programs receive higher awards, he explained, is that they come from poorer families.
This appears to be in line with the results of a recent UJA-Federation of New York study showing that the region’s ultra-Orthodox community has a growing poverty problem.
It also corresponds with evidence that yeshiva students are among the primary beneficiaries of federal Pell grants for theological students. A recent study by the Forward showed that yeshivas received 53% of the $84.5 million in Pell grant money that went to religious schools in 2010.
While HESC declined to release a breakdown of individual TAP awards to yeshivas, it is likely that United Talmudical Seminary, in Brooklyn and UTA Mesivta of Kiryas Joel — the largest religious Pell grant recipients in the state last year — took the largest share of New York’s TAP funds for religious schools.
Until New York’s eligibility rules were changed, all schools that received TAP grants had to be supervised by the state’s education department. Because yeshivas are not supervised by the department, HESC had to find other measures for such schools to qualify for TAP funds.
Kathy Crowder, an HESC spokeswoman, said that in order to receive TAP funds, theological students and their schools must be eligible for Pell funding. The students must also satisfy several additional requirements, such as meeting standards for satisfactory academic progress. The schools must be able to demonstrate adequate financial resources as well as adequate faculty and defined admissions requirements.
“Each school’s TAP certifying officer must certify that a student has met the statutory standards for satisfactory academic progress,” Crowder wrote in an email. “The Office of the New York State Comptroller reviews whether schools have properly certified students as part of an independent TAP audit.”
In a follow-up email, the Forward asked Crowder what a TAP “certifying officer” was, if this officer was a state employee or an employee of the school receiving the funds, and what, exactly, were the “statutory standards” the yeshivas must meet to show “satisfactory academic progress.” The Forward also asked whether the New York State Comptroller had, in fact, independently audited any of the yeshivas, and what those audits showed.
Crowder wrote back, on November 8, that because of “Hurricane Sandy and several other time-sensitive matters” HESC was unable to respond.
Contact Paul Berger at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@pdberger