The Council for Higher Education announced on Sunday the allocation of some 650 scholarships totaling NIS 6.5 million for Arab students pursuing an undergraduate education.The “Irtika” (rise) scholarship fund will accompany the students until the completion of their undergraduate degrees, financing 80 percent of their tuition fees – NIS 10,000 in their first and second years and NIS 5,000 for their third and fourth years, based on the length of their studies. Within three years, the scope of the scholarships will reach some NIS 18m. per year.“The scholarship fund provides truly good news for many Arab graduates who have completed their formal education and could not exercise their individual capacities in higher education due to financial problems. The scholarship will serve for many talented graduates as a bridge that will lead them straight to the gates of academia to pursue higher education,” said Education Minister Shai Piron.The scholarship program is a collaboration of the council, the Prime Minister’s Office Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab, Druse and Circassian Sectors, the Education Ministry, the National Lottery and philanthropic funds from abroad.Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, chairman of the Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Council of Higher Education Committee, said the aim of the program is to increase the representation of Arab students in the academic world.According to Trajtenberg, the implementation of the plan will lead to a revolution in Arab society regarding higher education, which will in turn lead to a significant upgrade of higher education in the Arab sector and further integration into the labor market.Over 4,000 students applied for the scholarship program. The participants were chosen based on socioeconomic criteria and according to fields required in the labor market in which Arab representation is relatively low, such as hi-tech, engineering, sciences, economics and the arts.The criteria were determined by a steering committee, headed by Prof. Edriss S. Titi of the Weizmann Institute of Science, who is responsible for the scholarship program, and composed of members from academia, public officials and representatives of Arab society. “Access to higher education is one of the main keys to the economic development of Arab society and to minimizing the gaps. The scholarship program will give many who cannot financially afford [university fees] the ticket to higher education with an emphasis on preferred professions,” said Iman Saif, director of the authority.The scholarships will be awarded at an official ceremony on Monday at the Congress Center in Haifa.The scholarship fund reflects an element of a larger, comprehensive plan formulated by the council in March 2013, allocating some NIS 300m. for six years toward increasing the representation of Arab society in higher education.The program aims to offer a budgetary response to the various difficulties encountered by Arab students pursuing higher education, offering language enhancement, study skills, academic orientation, cultural preparation, social and academic mentoring and scholarships.