University students who recently made aliyah to Israel dragged suitcases to the Prime Minister’s Office on Sunday to protest the breakdown in negotiations for funding of the Student Authority, which provides full tuition to new immigrants for their university studies. The Student Authority is funded by the Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, and they have been trying to negotiate funding with the Finance Ministry for the past year.
This year there are 6,700 “olim” (new immigrants) who receive full scholarships through the Student Authority. A few days ago, students received an email stating that due to the failure to find someone to fill the NIS 30 million lack of funding, the students may not have funding next year. This could include both new students as well as students who are in the middle of their degree.
“Here’s a community of people who have nothing, who have left everything behind, and they have the most motivation to change the country,” said Tal-Or Cohen, a Rockville, Maryland native who just finished her army service and is planning to start studying at IDC Herziliya in the fall. Cohen slammed the Jewish Agency for turning their focus to Diaspora programming such as MASA and Taglit, which bring Jews to Israel for short programs, rather than assisting people already in the country.
According to the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, the budget for the Student Authority was NIS 70 million to fund the university educations of 6,500 to 7,000 olim per year. Through 2008, that amount was split evenly between the Ministry and the Jewish Agency. In 2009, the Jewish Agency announced they could only fund NIS 16 million, and the Ministry covered 75% of the budget. This year, the Jewish Agency announced they would stop funding the Student Authority entirely, but the Ministry refused to cover the entire cost of the program, said spokesman Elad Sonn.
Gil Shefler contributed to this report