With the goal to accelerate the flow of interest-free, worry-free loans up to $7,500 to college students in Michigan, Hebrew Free Loan (HFL) of Detroit has established an unprecedented new program through an $8 million grant from the William Davidson Foundation.

As part of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit’s Centennial Fund and  in partnership with the National Council of Jewish Women, as well as other community stakeholders and funders, Hebrew Free Loan will launch the William Davidson Jewish College Loan Program with easy online access to applicants at www.jewishcollegeloansmi.org starting April 1, 2014.

“The right agency for the job”

With the average cost of higher education closing in on $30,000 a year, students seeking financial assistance have become the norm.  According to a recent study released by the Institute for College Access & Success, an estimated 62% of students in Michigan graduate in debt.

David Contorer
David Contorer

Open to undergraduates, graduate students and students going back to school later in life, the William Davidson Jewish College Loan Program replaces the community’s existing Jewish Educational Loan Service (JELS) with a significant increase in funding available.

As HFL Executive Director, David Contorer, explains, “Our community has provided financial assistance for education since the 40’s, but the William Davidson Jewish College Loan Program takes HFL’s service to a new level. We now have the critical dollars needed to reach out to students statewide and to double our capacity in terms of the students we can serve and the size of the loans we can provide. The process, itself, will be seamless – from the user-friendly online application through the interview and assessment with students and their parents. And, because HFL is a holistic, full-service agency working with many partners in the community, we have the wherewithal and the infrastructure in place to patch our loan applicants into JVS, Jewish Family Service and other social service agencies when necessary.”

To qualify for need-based, interest-free loans up to $7,500 per year, students are required to be Jewish Michigan residents who are U.S. citizens, enrolled full-time in accredited colleges or universities in Michigan (with some exceptions on a case-by-case basis). To be eligible for loans, applicants must document financial need by completing the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA at www.fafsa.ed.gov) and pursuing all other available funding sources. Beyond defraying the cost of tuition, HFL interest-free student loans can be applied towards room and board, the purchase of textbooks, some travel and other college living expenses.

“Keeping brains and talent in Michigan”

Michael Berke
Michael Berke

“By reaching out to loan applicants across the state, we are delivering a powerful message,” says Michael Berke, President of Hebrew Free Loan. “We’re saying to our young people that we want them here: we want them to graduate, to be economically self-sufficient and to thrive in Michigan. And for students living out-of-state and thinking about coming home, this could sweeten the pot to help them get that graduate degree or establish their residency back in Michigan. We’re driving home a clear message that resonates throughout the State, and it is consistent with the Jewish Federation’s NEXTGen agenda, which is to attract and retain our next generation of professionals, scientists, engineers, doctors, lawyers, teachers and entrepreneurs.”

“We have an unparalleled opportunity now,” observes Harriet Orley, HFL Board Vice President and Chair of the William Davidson Jewish College Loan Program. “It’s thrilling to see that we are making a long-term investment in students building their futures by helping them accomplish what they want to do in schools. Our hope is to ease some of the heavy burden of college debt today. By providing supplemental loans – those ‘last dollars in’ — we want to help our students cover some of those expenses that can make the difference between ‘just getting by’ and a fuller overall educational experience.”

“Building on community legacy”

Harriet Orley
Harriet Orley

The William Davidson Jewish College Loan Program reflects the legacy of a visionary Detroiter and builds on the longstanding connection between the William Davidson Foundation and the Jewish community of metropolitan Detroit.

“Mr. Davidson had an entrepreneurial spirit, valued educational advancement and supported a vibrant Jewish community,” said Jonathan Aaron, President, William Davidson Foundation. “Hebrew Free Loan’s William Davidson Jewish College Loan Program is designed to help more Michigan-based Jewish students have access to higher education and to alleviate some of the costs and debt that often come with the pursuit of higher education degrees. Ultimately, we hope recipients from this program will continue Mr. Davidson’s passion to make Southeast Michigan’s Jewish community a thriving place to work and live.”

Projecting that HFL will provide loan service to 250 to 300 students in the first year of the program, Berke noted that the William Davidson Foundation has made a lasting and dramatic impact with immeasurable benefit to the community. “We have a perfect marriage of supply and service delivery for the demand,” he stated, emphasizing the high returns on investment. “We know for a fact that our loans are paid back – historically more than 99% over time. Even so, the Foundation and our partners in Federation have taken a bold step in launching a statewide program of this magnitude. We may be in uncharted territory here, as we only can estimate what the response will be. But we are ready – because our next generation is calling. We are very proud and humbled to have the opportunity to serve them.”

For information go to www.jewishcollegeloansmi.org  or contact Laurie Banks, Director William Davidson Jewish College Loan Program, 248 723-8184 or email info@jewishcollegeloansmi.orgNew