Thousands of Jewish students are at risk of losing their federal student aid after the Michigan Jewish Institute failed for a second time to win accreditation — and now faces the risk of closure.
The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools deferred its decision to grant the Chabad-affiliated MJI accreditation until December 13.
MJI’s current grant of accreditation, which is required for students to receive Federal Pell Grants worth $5,500 per year, runs out at the end of 2013.
A Forward investigation in the fall of last year revealed that MJI received $25 million in federal aid between 2008 and 2012 despite graduating hardly any students.
So far this year, the college has received $8.6 million in federal funds.
Only American citizens are eligible for the Federal Pell Grant Program, the government’s largest education aid program targeting low-income students. Almost all of MJI’s students are enrolled in study-abroad programs, mainly in Israel, and in online programs. Few, if any, of the students complete their degree courses.
Jane Glickman, a Department of Education spokeswoman, said that without accreditation, MJI’s students will not be eligible for federal funding. Glickman said that in most cases colleges that lose accreditation are forced to close because students cannot afford tuition and the schools in question can no longer afford to pay teachers.
MJI charges students a fixed administrative fee of $2,650 for its study-abroad program in addition to the host school’s tuition fee. Ninety-nine percent of its students receive federal aid, according to the education department.
MJI’s assets have risen in line with the growth of its study abroad and online programs. According to tax records, MJI’s assets grew from $1.2 million in 2008 to $3.9 million in 2012.
When the Forward interviewed MJI’s Director of Academic Administration, Dov Stein, last year, he offered contradictory information about MJI’s student enrollment.
Initially, Stein said MJI had about 3,000 students. Later, he revised that figure down to about 2,000 students.
During a Forward visit to MJI, in West Bloomfield, near Detroit, a reporter was unable to find any college students.