College pushes for free tuition for military veterans

Jerusalem College of Engineering: Capital should be included in gov’t program giving free freshman tuition to IDF veterans.

Herschkowitz with Uzi Wechsler 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Herschkowitz with Uzi Wechsler 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Jerusalem College of Engineering urges the Knesset Finance Committee to recognize scientific colleges in the capital as a “Development Area A” along with the Galilee, Negev, Judea, Samaria and Ashkelon so that its students who are Israel Defense Force veterans can also get free tuition during their first year of study.
Uzi Wechsler, president of the 11-year-old college, told visiting Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz on Tuesday that Jerusalem – with its demographic problems and minimum of industry – needed to encourage more engineering students to come and learn.
Wechsler, a former senior official in the Jerusalem Municipality, said that the Jerusalem College of Technology – an Orthodox engineering college with separate campuses for men and women that integrated Talmud and other Jewish studies – is in the same situation, and that its freshmen veterans also do not receive free tuition. The JCT has over 3,050 students pursuing BSc and MSc degrees on several campuses in the capital’s Givat Mordechai and Givat Shaul neighborhoods and in Ramat Gan.
Wechsler, who noted that Jerusalem is the poorest city in the country besides Bnei Brak, said the capital strongly needs this boost because so many local youths – particularly haredi yeshiva students and Arabs – do not go to college or university. For too long, he said, Jerusalem has been a city of government employees, hospital workers and university staffers, with too few in hi-tech and other advanced industries.
Herschkowitz, for many years a Technion – Israel Institute of Technology mathematician in Haifa, said he was trying to get the government and the Knesset committee to include such Jerusalem institutions in the program for a year’s free tuition.
“There have been discussions,” he told The Jerusalem Post during his two-hour visit to the JCE campus, which was launched on the former campus of Bezeq’s school for technicians that became obsolete.
He told an assembly of students that while some disagreed, he was certain that engineering is a science because students must learn in four years a great deal of physics, mathematics, biology and/or chemistry, and because of all the functions engineering serves.
JCE was established in affiliation with the Technion following a government decision to train more engineers and strengthen Jerusalem economically. It opened at the edge of the Ramat Beit Hakerem quarter – across the hill from the 41-year-old JCT in Givat Mordechai – with 72 students in two departments. Today, said Wechsler, there are six departments (pharmaceutical engineering, software engineering, advanced materials for microelectronics, electronic engineering, industry and management and mechanical engineering).
By 2014, JCE hopes to have four more departments and graduate 500 engineers a year. It has strong contacts with industry, with many lecturers coming in from outside, including companies, and students learning the ropes in industry during their studies. Over 85% of graduates get jobs in industry, a third go for advanced degree studies and only one percent find no jobs in their fields, the president said. There is still a severe shortage of engineers in Israel, he added.
JCT has received permission from the Council for Higher Education to launch a department in mechanical engineering and the country’s first “green tech” engineering department, which will encompass studies relating to land, water and air. It has also applied for approval of a BSc degree in Internet engineering, which would be the first in Israel, and asked for accreditation of a systems engineering MSc degree without a thesis.