JELF provides interest-free, last dollar loans for students who identify as Jewish. Identifying as Jewish can represent lineage or personal choice. Each applicant will be asked about their religious identification on the JELF application.
Students must be registered full-time and attend a U.S.-accredited, degree-seeking college, university or vocational program.
Students must have legal residence in the five-state region of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina or Virginia (excluding metro DC).
While the majority of JELF's loan recipients are between the ages of 18 - 25, there is no age cap to apply for a loan.
There is no application fee to apply for a JELF loan. Our loans are totally free -- no interest, no fee. The only thing you'll ever pay back is the money you actually receive.
JELF loans are available to students who have been a legal resident of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina or Virginia (excluding metro DC) for at least one (1) year immediately preceding the application deadline. JELF verifies a student's legal address through driver's license, tax return and other related documentation.
If you do not qualify due to residency, click here to find out if there is a Jewish interest-free lender in your community!
Not a problem. As long as you reside in JELF's five-state region, JELF will consider your application. If you live more than one (1) hour away we can set up a phone or online interview. Please contact JELF's Central Office for further assistance at [email protected].
In order to make the best funding decisions, the purpose of this interview, which involves both the student as well as their cosigner(s), is to get to know you better. The meeting with your Local JELF Administrator will cover personal questions about your selected educational program, professional aspirations, family dynamics, finances and possible debts.
This interview is conducted with the utmost of confidentiality and in most cases, your Local JELF Administrator is not an employee of JELF but is rather a social worker or like-minded professional contracted through a local Jewish agency. The Local JELF Administrator is not involved in any funding decisions and is only part of the intake process. After your interview, your anonymous information is presented to JELF's Loan Review Committee along with an anonymous summary of your application.
Please do your best to be honest during this interview. The more we understand about your family's need, the more we hope to help.
If you have any feedback about this interview at any time, please email [email protected] and we would be happy to address it.
JELF loans are based on financial need, not GPA.
However, loan recipients have to be in good academic standing in order to be eligible for funding.
The loans provided by JELF are typically considered “last dollar” because they provide the final dollars that a student needs to go to school. Students apply to JELF after applying for all other student loans and scholarships for which they qualify.
For this reason, JELF applicants are required to file the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and must plan to accept all financial aid for which they qualify, which includes the Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans (also know as a Stafford Loan).
JELF loans are under $10,000/year with an average $4,800/year loan in 2021. However, each student's need is personally determined based on that student's last dollar need so there is no 'set amount.'
In order to determine a student’s need, JELF subtracts the student’s total financial resources (which includes state, school and federal aid as well possible family contribution) from the total cost to attend school for that academic year.
We get this information through the SAR (Student Aid Report) FAFSA, you or your parents' tax returns (if you are a dependent or under the age of 25) and/or your tax return and the additional financial information you provide on the loan application and during your in-person interview. We also evaluate all the information from your loan application and supporting documents each year because we recognize that financial circumstances can change from year to year.
After choosing the university, graduate or vocational program that is the right fit for you, JELF is able to help. Our only requirements are:
- Must be a accredited U.S. institution.
- You must be enrolled as a full-time student.
- The program must lead to a degree or professional certificate.
JELF expects all students to make sound decisions in choosing a school based on their field of study as well as economic considerations.
No. JELF welcomes applications for both undergraduate as well as graduate school. We also help students who are pursuing their degree or certificate from a range of vocational schools and technical colleges.
JELF loans are always awarded directly to the student applicant, not their family -- or the school they are attending. It is up to each student to determine how they best need to utilize these funds throughout the semester.
JELF does not require parents to take on Parent Plus loans. However, if a student's gap is considerably larger than JELF's average loan size that school year, JELF may have to turn back to the family to let them know that they still need more financial aid before JELF can help.
JELF loans are funded in two major ways:
- As JELF recipients pay back their loans, these dollars are re-loaned to current JELF applicants. Our 99% student repayment rate helps cover a significant portion of our costs.
- We also depend on the generosity of our community. Donors include individuals, family foundations and nearly every single Jewish Federation across our five-state region.
JELF loans are designed to help fund the total college experience. Therefore, we take into account the cost of tuition/fees, books and supplies, room/board, transportation and miscellaneous personal expenses. Social and extracurricular fees, such as fees for sororities and fraternities, are not included.
Whether you apply to JELF as a dependent or independent student depends on whether you are relying on any parental support.
- A dependent student is under the age of 25 and is claimed on his or her parents' income tax form(s) for the previous year.
- An independent student is 25+ or, if under 25, is not claimed on his or her parents' income tax form and receives no parental support. If you are under 25 and state that you are an independent student, JELF will require that you submit your parents' tax returns for verification.
- A cosigner is typically a parent, legal guardian or relative.
- Cosigners must reside in the U.S.
- Cosigners are required to provide taxes, W-2s, and picture ID.
- Spouses are not qualified cosigners.
- In some cases, a second cosigner may be required.
JELF requires a cosigner for each loan made, regardless of whether the student is dependent or independent. A cosigner can be anyone who is willing to be legally responsible for repayment if the loan recipient defaults.
JELF reserves the right to request a second cosigner. JELF also reserves the right to contact cosigners, require tax returns for proof of income, and run credit checks on cosigners, with their permission.
While JELF does not charge interest or any fees, we do have a responsibility to make sure that every loan is repaid in full. If something happens and the borrower is not able to repay the loan, the cosigners are legally responsible to repay the loan. The Internal Revenue Code treats cancelled or uncollectible loans as amounts includible in the income of the obligor(s) of the loan. JELF will report all such loans to the Internal Revenue Service in the manner required under IRS guidance.
JELF keeps all applicants' identity as confidential as possible. Only the Local JELF Administrator (LJA) who interviews you, and the appropriate JELF staff, will know that you have applied for a loan.
At JELF, we are very sensitive to the issues that cause individuals to seek financial assistance, and therefore ensure your privacy by assigning your application a code number. Reviewers and other staff members will not have access to either an applicants name or gender.
JELF never sells (or gives) lists of loan applicants to outside parties and will only disclose the name of a recipient with the recipient's permission.
All of the information that JELF collects from students and their cosigner(s) runs through our secure email platform and is maintained through our private, secure server. We make every effort to ensure that your private information will be properly maintained while in use and deleted after it is no longer necessary for us to house.
If JELF ever has reason to believe that our data has been breached at any point, we will inform all of those affected as soon as possible. We are fortunate that in six decades of servicing loans, we have never been subject to a data breach.
After loan decisions are made (late-July and/or late-November), JELF will send an email notifying all applicants whether they have been awarded a loan and if so, for how much. Applicants should be on the lookout for this email beginning early-August (March-April applicants) or late-November/early-December (September applicants).
If you are awarded a loan from JELF, you and your cosigner will first have to sign a Promissory Note accepting and agreeing to the amount. Once JELF has your fully executed Promissory Note, JELF will deposit your loan check through ACH (automatic bank deposit) after you have provided the proper bank account information and it has been verified.
You do not have to accept your JELF loan if it turns out you don't need it after all. And even if you decide to not accept the loan, you can re-apply for subsequent school years as needed.
Most of our applicants do not know their total financial resources when they initially fill out a loan application – which is why JELF requires that all applicants also submit their school's financial aid award letter + cost of attendance. If you find you don’t need the loan, you can withdraw your application from consideration at any time.
Yes. In order to ensure that our educational loan program will be around to help other students for many more years, JELF only provides interest-free loans (as opposed to scholarships). As each student loan is repaid, the money goes to help future students in need.
Repayment of a JELF loan begins either approximately six (6) months after either the student's final graduation, after a student has terminated their course of study or if a student's status has changed to part-time. For example, if you graduate in May or June, your first payment will be due January 1 of the following year. JELF does not ask for repayment while you are a student and can therefore defer repayment if you choose to continue your studies.
After a student's expected graduation date, JELF contacts students to confirm they have graduated. Assuming they have, JELF then explains our graduated repayment schedule.
For this reason, we make a concerted effort to keep track of students’ graduation dates – requesting updates on the final page of each signed promissory note- and ask students to let us know if they will graduate earlier than expected or later -- or if they terminate their studies for any reason.
Statements are sent via email. Students receive their first statement the month prior to when it is due. Another email will remind the student that their payment will be due the first of the month after receiving the statement.
You can also set up ACH repayment here.
JELF's standard repayment period is 8 years, please see our repayment page for more details. However many students repay their loans to JELF well before that amount of time.
JELF's repayment program is graduated, meaning that payments are smaller right out of school when your income is likely to be at its smallest. Here is a table breakdown -- and these are the basics:
- Years 1 and 2 of repayment -- repay 5% of the total amount borrowed.
- Years 3 and 4 -- repay 10% each year of the total borrowed amount.
- Years 5 and 6 -- repay 15% each year of the total borrowed amount.
- Years 7 and 8 -- repay 20% of the total borrowed amount each year.
You are always welcome to accelerate your repayment as much as you would like. By doing so, you will allow JELF to help even more students in need. There is no penalty for paying off a loan early.
Yes, sometimes individuals want to help a borrower by repaying all or some of their loan!
To set up regular payments, visit the JELF ACH Form.
To set up a one-time payment, visit this form which will allow you to set up a single payment towards a borrower's balance. This one-time payment can also be made anonymously.
Students can set up monthly payments to JELF from their banks through ACH, a form of "direct pay" or "electronic check" which allows funds to move from one bank account to other through a central clearing house.
JELF does not accept credit cards for student repayments (we’d lose a percentage and don’t charge any interest to begin with) and payment by credit card would essentially turn a student’s non-interest bearing debt into interest bearing debt.
You will receive a final promissory note stamped "Paid in Full" and will then join the ranks of JELF's Alumni!
Eventually JELF hopes you’ll also join our "Full Circle Society," a giving society of individuals who, like you, received JELF loans, paid them off in full - and are now in a position to give back to JELF, helping future generations.