Israeli Students Prefer Work, Parental Help to Student Loans

Most college and university students would rather earn money to cover their myriad expenses than take out a loan, survey finds.

Lior Dattel
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With the academic year beginning this month at the country's universities and colleges, many students will be preoccupied not only with their studies but also with holding down jobs and accepting financial help from their parents to avoid getting into debt.

Evidence of this growing burden came in a survey of 650 students at the ORT Braude College of Engineering in Carmiel and another poll conducted by the National Union of Israeli Students.

Annual tuition fees at the country's universities and public colleges will be NIS 9,975 this year for studies leading to a bachelor's degree, and NIS 13,485 for master's degree studies. Tuition at private colleges is much higher, sometimes running as high as NIS 40,000 a year.

But tuition fees are not the primary expense facing college and university students - they also have to pay for housing, living expenses, travel expenses and class supplies. According to the ORT Braude survey, which was conducted by college's president, Arie Maharshak, the college's David Pundak, 72% of students surveyed said they work during the school year to meet expenses.

About the same proportion, 73%, say they have refrained from taking out loans and prefer to work even though it might affect their school work, and even with the prospect that they may not earn their degree within the regular time frame.

"The situation in Israel is very different from in the United States," Pundak said. "There, about 80% of all students choose to take out bank loans to finance their academic studies and a not inconsiderable number of them don't manage to repay them. The reason for this is the American government policy encouraging student loans as a way of funding education."

In additon, tuition fees in the United States are as a rule vastly higher than in Israel, making it less feasible for students to meet the expenses without loans or help from parents.

Pundak also notes that students in the United States are generally younger when they enter college (as there is no compulsory military service there), which is another reason they are more dependent on parental and governmental assistance.

In Israel, students at universities and colleges are also motivated to work during the school year because it is generally the norm among their peers. "Forty-nine percent of students say they don't view working as a necessity, but most do it anyway," Pundak said.

The results of the most recent annual national student union survey, which was conducted among 5,118 students, completes the picture when it comes to sources of funding. According to those polling results, students' parents frequently have difficulty contending with the financial demands of their children's studies. The average assistance provided by parents jumped by roughly NIS 2,000 from 2011 to 2012, to NIS 14,355.

In 2012, just over half of all students surveyed said they were receiving financial help from their parents. About 18% of them reported receiving more than NIS 20,000 a year in family assistance. Not surprisingly, the poll, conducted by the Maagar Mochot research firm, found that the level of parental financial support is higher among parents who themselves have larger incomes.

On average, parents with monthly incomes of more than NIS 40,000 provide their student children NIS 23,000 a year, while parents with monthly incomes of between NIS 1,000 and NIS 5,000 provide them an average of NIS 10,900 a year.

The survey, commissioned by the student union, found that the proportion of students getting financial help from their parents is highest at universities, at 56%, and lowest at state-supported colleges, at 45%. At private colleges, where tuition is higher, the rate of parental assistance is 47%.

Itzik Shmuli, chairman of the National Union of Students, said about the survey: "If a parent is required to pay thousands of shekels to help his child survive his studies financially, it critically affects access by weaker segments of society to education - and more importantly, practicially their only chance to break out of the cycle of deprivation and poverty."

Shmuli said the data come on top of what he termed government inaction in addressing the high cost of housing and food, dealing another blow to the middle class.

Tel Aviv University.Credit: Aviad Bar Nes
Students at Ariel University Center. Credit: Eyal Toueg