In an effort to lighten the financial challenges presented by the growing costs of higher education, Hillel International announced in November that it is launching two annual scholarships for students attending college anywhere in the United States and Canada. The two merit-based scholarships will total $4,000 US (roughly $5,200 Cdn) each and are available to any student who identifies as Jewish. The deadline for applications is March 15.
The Handeli First-Year Scholarship will be awarded annually to graduating high school students who demonstrate a record of leadership and volunteerism and are preparing to enter a four-year college or university. Students currently on a gap-year program are also eligible to apply.
The Hillel Campus Leadership Award, meanwhile, will be presented to full-time college students in their freshmen, sophomore or junior year who exhibit exceptional leadership skills and are pursuing a degree at an accredited school.
“Thanks to the estate of a wonderful donor, David Handeli, we were able to create the two new scholarship opportunities. Four students will receive awards this year, and we’ve already received more than 200 applications since the application went live in November and more than 1,000 applications have been started. Our hope is to expand these scholarships down the road, since we will have way more demand than supply,” Etan Harmalech, Hillel International’s vice-president of marketing, told the Independent.
For both scholarships, applicants must have a grade point average (GPA) of 2.5 or above to be considered. A full list of eligibility requirements can be found on the Hillel International website, hillel.org/college-guide/hillel-scholarships/eligibility-requirements-and-faqs. The applications for the respective scholarships can be also be found on the site, at hillel.org/college-guide/hillel-scholarships.
Like their counterparts throughout North America, Jewish college students and their families have had to contend with ever-mounting educational expenses, the increase in which over the past 20 years has exceeded the rise in household income.
The daunting cost in the United States, for example, was cited in a recent report by the College Board, an American nonprofit whose goal is to expand access to higher education. The report noted that the annual tuition for a college student had increased by more than 25% in the past decade for both private and public institutions. In several states, the cost for a year’s tuition competes with average income.
The average Canadian undergraduate pays close to $7,000 a year in tuition. Surveys conducted by Macleans in 2017 and 2018, however, found that the average cost of post-secondary education – with all of its expenses, such as rent, tuition and food, included – came in at just under $20,000 per year, with the commensurate level of debt rising with each additional year of study.
In British Columbia, students are confronted with one more challenge: finding affordable lodging near campus in an overheated housing market, an obstacle that is further exacerbated by the scarcity of available units, often leading to crowded living conditions or dwellings located far from the schools students attend.
“I am happy to see that these scholarships incentivize student involvement in Jewish life on campus. Hillels are a hub for Jewish life and often act as the last gas station before students head off into the working world,” said Sam Heller, the executive director of Hillel BC. “If we don’t get to them in college, there are fewer opportunities for Jewish young adults to engage with the community in an easy way and we may not see them until they start to have families and so on.”
Founded in 1923 at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Hillel is the largest international Jewish student organization, with representation at more than 550 colleges and universities around the world. In British Columbia, a Hillel presence can be found at University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, University of Victoria, Langara College, Quest University Canada, Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Emily Carr University of Art and Design.
All applications will be reviewed by Hillel’s scholarship committee following the March 15 deadline. The recipients of the scholarships will be chosen and announced on May 1.
Students looking for more scholarship opportunities should visit Hillel’s Jewish Scholarship Portal (hillel.org/college-guide/hillel-scholarships/jewish-scholarships), which contains information on several hundred scholarships available to Jewish students.
Sam Margolis has written for the Globe and Mail, the National Post, UPI and MSNBC.