College scholarships and aid money are out there, if you know where to look


College is expensive, whether you go to school five minutes from home or 500 miles away.

In-state resident undergraduates living at a University of California (UC) campus this year, for example, are estimated to be paying more than $34,000 (depending on the school), according to the UC website. 

The good news is that there’s plenty of financial help out there if you look hard enough for it. According to UC, more than two-thirds of its undergrads receive “some gift aid, with an average award of over $16,000.”

A number of Jewish organizations provide aid, and there are scholarships available specifically for local Jews seeking higher education. 

The following compilation is not an exhaustive list but merely a starting point. Other resources can be found at fastweb.com and the College Board (college-board.org) for more opportunities. And always remember: Double-check eligibility requirements and deadlines when applying. 

Los Angeles scholarships

• The Brawerman Fellowship (jewishla.org) is offered by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and is open to high school seniors. Four fellows are selected annually, receiving $10,000 for each year of their four-year undergraduate career. Recipients must have strong academics, financial need and a commitment to Jewish engagement.

As part of the program, participants engage in community service, attend two annual retreats, go on a Birthright Israel trip and more. Applications for the 2017-2018 academic year will be available in December.

• Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) Los Angeles offers between $500 and $10,000 in scholarships to Jewish students (undergraduate and graduate) based on their financial need. The number of scholarships awarded varies from year to year based on available funding. This year, the JVS Scholarship Program (jvsla.org) helped 193 students by giving out a total of $614,000.

Since the program began in 1972, it has awarded nearly $8 million to more than 4,400 local students and, according to the organization’s website, “it remains the largest need-based scholarship program serving Jewish students within the Los Angeles community.” Students may begin applying for the 2017-2018 on Jan. 1, 2017.

• At UCLA, the Heather Kase Scholarship (scholarshipcenter.ucla.edu) awards about $2,000 annually for registration fees and educational materials to undergraduate students, with preference given to
Jewish women. In addition to demonstrating financial need, applicants must submit
an essay.

• Incoming freshmen at USC can apply for the Jewish Leadership Scholarship (admission.usc.edu), which awards $12,500 annually for four years. Only two students can win the scholarship, which also requires an essay and letter of recommendation from an adviser or rabbi. Focus is on leadership inside and outside the Jewish community, and winners are expected to get involved in campus Jewish activities. The deadline is Dec. 1 for next year’s freshmen.

National scholarships

• The Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards (dillerteenawards.org) are given to 15 recipients — five to teens from California and 10 to students from around the country. The $36,000 award is given based on an applicant’s leadership record and service project.

The Helen Diller Foundation established this award to both “draw attention to teenagers doing important work” and to “inspire other teens to launch their outlandish idea” for projects aimed at bettering their communities, said Adam Weisberg, the director of Diller Teen Initiatives. Nominations for the 2017 awards must be received no later than Dec. 18. 

• Funded through The Jewish Federations of North America Mandel Center for Leadership Excellence (jewishfederations.org), the Federation Executive Recruitment & Education Program (FEREP) offers up to $40,000 in tuition money. The award is only applicable toward tuition for graduate degrees in public administration, non-clinical social work and business administration for non-profit management, and is intended for students interested in a career in Jewish Federations.

In addition to the areas of study, award recipients must also work for a Jewish Federation in North America for at least two years after graduating. Recipients must also fulfill a Jewish study requirement. 

• Established to help young people understand Jewish heritage and culture, the Morris J. and Betty Kaplun Foundation (kaplunfoundation.org) presents 12 awards annually. First prize in each of two categories is $1,800. Open to students in seventh grade or above, the prize is given to winning essays, the topics of which change every year. Topics will be posted at the end of September, and essays are due in early March 2017. 

Study in Israel 

• The American Jewish League for Israel (americanjewishleague.com) provides merit-based scholarships toward a year of study at eligible Israeli universities. These include Bar-Ilan University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, University of Haifa, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science. Information about new funding opportunities should be available in January, according to the organization’s website.

• Masa Israel (masaisrael.org/grants) provides grants or need-based scholarships for study abroad programs to Israel. Different amounts are available for participants from different countries. Study abroad participants from North America can receive up to $4,500, depending on the length and cost of their program, and need-based scholarships go up to $3,000. Gap year participants between the ages of 18 and 21 can receive $500.

• The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles (jewishla.org) provides up to $6,000 in scholarships to graduate students through the Marks Endowment Fellowship to study at Israeli universities; the money may also go toward dissertation research, language-immersion programs or Masa programs. Applicants must be Los Angeles residents. 

Applications are rolling, but they must be received at least one month prior to planned travel.

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