Feds stop funding to Detroit-area Jewish college accused of fraud

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — The U.S. Department of Education has cut off federal funding to a Detroit-area Jewish college accused of illegally obtaining federal Pell Grants.

The Michigan Jewish Institute, a four-year college in West Bloomfield, illegally obtained the grants in its study abroad program, according to the Department of Education, which late last month rejected the school’s request for recertification in the Title IV student financial aid program, the Detroit Jewish News reported Monday.

The institute, which has about 2,000 students, received millions of dollars under the federal Pell Grant Program between 2006 and 2012.

The Department of Education in a letter sent to the college last month asserted that many of the students identified by the institute as living in Israel and being enrolled in distance and online learning courses actually have “no meaningful connection” to the institute, and that the institute just uses them to obtain additional Pell Grants illegally. The letter was signed by Susan Crim, director of the department’s Administrative Actions and Appeals Service Group.

The institute received more than $50 million in Pell Grants between 2009 and 2015, the Detroit Jewish News reported, citing government figures.

Most of the onsite classes take place in West Bloomfield at a synagogue located on the 45-acre Campus of Living Judaism, which is affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.

Last July, federal agents raided the offices of the college at the synagogue and in offices in Southfield, Michigan.

“After having been considered an eligible institution by the Department of about 17 years, MJI’s eligibility has been terminated without due process,” the institute said in a statement provided to the Detroit Jewish News. “The Department’s action is extremely harmful and unfair. MJI will contest the action to the fullest extent possible.”

The institute said it is in the process of preparing a written response to the Department of Education, according to the statement.

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