U.S. Jewish College Accused of Illegally Obtaining Federal Funding for Fake 'Study Abroad' Program in Israel

Michigan Jewish Institute received Pell Grants for students enrolled in Israeli institutions though 'not a single one of them ever physically attended classes at MJI,' Department of Education accuses.

The Michigan Jewish Institute's website.
The Michigan Jewish Institute's website.

A Jewish college in Michigan has illegally procured federal Pell Grants to subsidize the education of full-time Israeli residents under the pretense of a study-abroad program, the U.S. Department of Education recently accused, revoking the school's eligibility for the grants.

According to a letter sent by the DOJ to the Michigan Jewish Institute, a four-year college in West Bloomfield, almost 2,000 MJI students enrolled in Israeli institutions received the grants between 2006 and 2012 even though "Not a single one of them ever physically attended classes at MJI and none of them graduated from MJI."

"This evidence demonstrates that these students did not study briefly at an Israeli institution to enhance their educational experience after enrolling in MJI for purposes of obtaining a degree from MJI," the letter says, and goes on to accuse the college of "enrolling" the full-time Israeli residents so that the college could obtain and use Pell Grants, partly to subsidize the students' education in Israeli institutions and partly to fund its own activities.

According to the Detroit Jewish News, citing government figures, MJI received more than $50 million in Pell Grants between 2009 and 2015.

MJI denied the allegations and expressed its surprise with the DOJ's announcement, saying it has acted "precipitously, unfairly and unjustly."

The college contended that contrary to the DOJ claims, MJI doesn't provide a study abroad program. Students are either enrolled on an online-only basis, or in a "hybrid version" which includes both MJI courses and courses toward an MJI degree or certificate that are provided by foreign institutions which signed a partnership agreement with the Jewish college. According to MJI, this practice is in compliance with DOJ regulations.

"MJI disputes the Department’s contentions and will contest the action to the fullest extent possible," the statement concluded.

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