TRENTON — Beth Medrash Govoha, a massive yeshiva in the heart of Lakewood, will be eligible to dip into $750 million in state funding for capital projects if a November referendum is approved by voters.
The borrowing legislation was amended Thursday so that “all private, nonprofit, licensed institutions of higher education are eligible for grants under the bill, without exception,” according to bill language. Final legislative approval is expected next week.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Tom Kean, R-Essex, said that without the change, “schools such as, for example, the yeshiva in Lakewood would be (among) the excluded. They would now be allowed to participate because the majority of their students are not rabbinical students.’’
That follows a national trend of religious schools gaining more access to public dollars, and it’s a marked change from New Jersey’s previous 1988 bond issue for higher education.
That legislation specifically excluded the money from being used at “any educational institution dedicated primarily to the education or training of ministers, priests, rabbis or other professional persons in the field or religion.”
Josh Pruzansky, who lobbies for the Jewish community, said the schools added to the proposed borrowing “can have some benefit. This is something I think the senators looked at and wanted to change.”
The Lakewood yeshiva, which has more than 6,000 students enrolled, is among the state’s 14 accredited rabbinical schools, religious institutions, and theological seminaries.
“The bond funding could be helpful. We have a variety of capital needs,” said Moshe Gleiberman, vice president for institutional affairs at the yeshiva, adding that some of the other “Jewish institutions of higher education may not have eligible projects, as the funding cannot be used for religious purposes.”
The borrowing bill, in another change, now specifies that all schools that receive grants must pitch in 25 percent of the cost of projects.
That would ease the burden on community colleges, which previously were responsible for a 50 percent match.
“We’re thrilled with the legislation,” said Jacob C. Farbman, spokesman for the New Jersey Council of County Colleges. “Initially we were concerned and wanted to make sure there was an equal process for all schools. We’re grateful to the senators who proposed the change.”
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