Shekels for School: The Business of Education in Israel

Paying Tuition

Some sections of this blog will deal with Things You Need To Know About Israel in order to understand Jewish philanthropy. Key among these is the Israeli education system.

University Tuition

There are 7 universities in Israel and many private colleges. Israeli universities are located in the major cities in Israel and cost approximately 9,000 shekels (NIS) a year for undergraduate students. (Private colleges cost much, much more, but have lower barriers to admission.)

If you are calculating 9,000 NIS in your head or running to a currency converter, skip it. I’ll tell you right now that in US dollars that equals about $2,000. “Two thousand dollars?!” you’re thinking, “sign me up!”

But hold on just a second, my friend. I know from your reaction that you are reading this from outside of Israel. An Israeli would be dismayed at that amount of money. Why? Because there is no disposable income here. It’s a very different style of life and the way that Israelis think about money is completely different than the way Americans or others do.

Most Israelis pay for university in three ways:

  1. Aba v’ima (that’s Daddy and Mommy to you)
  2. Working in the Gap Year(s) after the army– we’ll come back to this concept
  3. Scholarships

Or some combination of these, often all three.

There is no such thing as a federal loan or Pell Grants in Israel as there are in the US. Bank loans charge very high rates of interest, so are to be avoided at all costs. I know many a student who has contemplated dropping out to work rather than taking a loan.

Student Strike Against Proposed Cuts in Education

Just this year, there was a 41-day student strike against a proposed tuition hike. Can you imagine this happening where you live? Forty-one days is a really long time to be out of school and you don’t get a tuition reimbursement for the days you weren’t attending. Additionally, while the semester was extended, you simply can’t learn the same material in half the time. Think about what this means for engineers, med students, and others in key technical positions.

The students were not alone. Lecturers, whose pay is abysmal and job security minimal, struck with them. In Israel, a strike means that everyone stays home. It is not an individual decision whether you want to strike or not: when a strike is called, everyone participates.

The Significance of “Low” Israeli Tuition

So what’s the significance of “low” Israeli tuition? Let’s take a walk down memory late to our childhood.

Do you remember those little orange UNICEF boxes they used to give out during Halloween? They would come with a list of line item products and services that could be purchased for minimal amounts of money: “A donation of $15 will give a child access to clean water for a year.” That fundraising model has stuck with me as a best practices paradigm since then.

Think how little it would take for someone on a US income to make a significant difference in the life of another elsewhere in the world. Now I’m not saying all Americans are rich because that is far from the truth, but I will strongly assert that in comparison to most people in the world, middle class Americans have a significant amount of disposal income.

If you could educate someone for a year, isn’t that something you’d want to do? Heck, I even considered it myself and I am one of them. 🙂

In short, a scholarship of $2,000 would help a student go to university for a year who might not otherwise be able to. An endowment of as little as $20,000 would establish an annual scholarship in perpetuity. Hey, sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Did someone say something about teaching a man to fish? I thought I heard one splashing in the bucket just now.

3 Responses to Shekels for School: The Business of Education in Israel

  1. […] on the conversion amount to shekels and cost of living differences. (Back to my UNICEF model of menus of giving […]

  2. […] you liked this post, you may enjoy, “Shekels for School: the Business of Education in Israel” (remember that one of new immigrants’ aliyah benefits is free university […]

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