Published in The Palm Beach Post, 7-30-19.
What does Jewish Educational Loan Fund do?
Student debt in the U.S. has reached record levels, making higher education out of reach for many families and saddling others with thousands in high-interest loans. According to The New York Times, 94% of undergrads are now borrowing for their education as compared to 45% in 1993.
Since 2009, the Jewish Educational Loan Fund has provided more than $7 million in the form of more than 2,000 student loans. JELF is one of the oldest continuously active nonprofits in the United States, founded in 1889 as the Hebrew Orphans’ Home (HOH). The orphanage was established to support children from the former B’nai B’rith District 5 (the same five-state region we still cover today) who had lost one or both of their parents. While the Hebrew Orphans’ Home closed its doors in 1930 due to changing societal needs, the organization successfully transformed itself into Jewish Children’s Services (JCS) which placed Jewish children in foster care. In 1961, the organization began providing interest-free loans for higher education, as government organizations began filling the foster care role. In 1989, the organization formally changed its name to Jewish Educational Loan Fund (JELF).
Today, through a combination of student loan repayments as well as the generous support from donors throughout our region, JELF is assisting more students each year to meet their education goals. As CEO Jenna Leopold Shulman says, “The cost of college should never have to outweigh its benefit, but sadly for many, it does. JELF helps fill the gap between scholarships, government loans and what the students still need to continue their education.”
How does your agency benefit the community?
JELF has provided loans to students all over the U.S. and around the globe. In 2018, loan recipients were enrolled at 135 different colleges, vocational and technical schools. Students from South Florida (Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties) represented 27% of JELF recipients, with nearly 11% coming exclusively from Palm Beach County. After borrowing from JELF, former recipients pay back their student loans at a 99% repayment rate, which allows them to continue benefiting others in the community. With their higher education, these students also are able to become more productive members of their communities. Many of them have taken leadership and board roles in different worthy nonprofits, including but not limited to JELF.
What is your agency’s focus for the future?
As Stan Lowenstein, current JELF board president, says, “I am excited about deepening our community impact. By gaining more awareness for our program we can fulfill our goal of ensuring that all Jewish students have the opportunity to earn their degree with as few financial obstacles as possible.”
The Jewish Educational Loan Fund’s mission is to provide interest-free loans to Jewish students from Florida, as well as the four other states that we currently serve (Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia) who lack the needed resources for their education after high school. Loans can be used for any accredited higher-learning, including college, graduate school and degree-granting vocational programs.
Interest-free student loans: JELF helps fill the gap between scholarships, government loans and what the students still need to continue their education. Ninety-nine percent of the loan recipients repay the loans, allowing JELF to continue benefiting others in the community.
JELF has two loan seasons: March 1 to April 30, which covers assistance for the following fall, spring and/or summer terms; and Sept. 1-30, which covers assistance for the following spring and/or summer terms only. To apply, students must visit JELF’s online application and create an account. Students must supply the following documentation, which can be uploaded directly to their account: final transcript from the school last attended (if not currently a student); school acceptance letter (if entering student); parents’ currency year tax return(s) and schedules and W-2s or 1099s (if student is listed as a dependent or is under 25 years of age); student’s current year tax return and schedules (if filed) and W-2 or 1099 (if worked); spouse’s current year tax return and schedules and W-2 or 1099 (if married); and the Student Aid Report (SAR) received after filing 2019 FAFSA.
Students would need to contact their Local JELF administrator (LJA) to schedule a personal interview and submit final required supporting documents by June 15 and/or Oct. 21. (This includes final transcript for school year most recently completed, the financial aid award letter as well as costs of attendance for the school the student is attending.)