Pell Grant Abuse Alleged at Michigan Jewish Institute

March 9, 2016

The U.S. Department of Education has revoked the eligibility of Michigan Jewish Institute to participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs after finding that it obtained Pell Grants on behalf of students who were enrolled in foreign institutions and had no intention of earning an MJI degree.

The Department allows Pell Grants to be used by students who study abroad during the course of their degree programs. However, in its evaluation the department found that MJI “turned the notion of a study abroad program on its head” in awarding Pell Grants to students who were not seeking a MJI credential.

“The evidence shows that almost 2,000 U.S. citizens, who were full-time Israeli residents, received Pell Grants for ostensibly 'studying abroad' in Israel at Israeli institutions between 2006 and 2012,” states the Department of Education's Feb. 25 letter to the university, uploaded to the Detroit Jewish News website. “Not a single one of them ever physically attended classes at MJI and none of them graduated from MJI. More than a quarter of these individuals were enrolled at universities or colleges in Israel offering degree programs or were enrolled in teachers' colleges in Israel offering teacher certificates. 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. Rather, these full-time Israeli residents were 'enrolled' in MJI so MJI could obtain and use Pell Grants, partly to subsidize the education of full-time Israeli residents enrolled at Israeli educational institutions, and partly to fund its own activities.”

The department’s letter also alleges that the institute provided false information to its accrediting agency, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.

In a statement issued by a public relations firm, MJI said it “disputes the department’s contentions and will contest the action to the fullest extent possible.”

“MJI does not provide a study abroad program as described by the department; rather, its students are almost all either enrolled entirely online with MJI or enrolled in a hybrid version in which the student is taking courses from MJI and courses for credit toward an MJI certificate/degree from a foreign institution that has signed a partnership agreement,” the institute said in its written statement. “This arrangement complies with departmental regulations governing written arrangements between eligible institutions, such as MJI, and other institutions including ones located outside the U.S.”

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