Federal agents have raided the Southfield offices of the Michigan Jewish Institute, a university that has come under questioning because of its finances and use of Pell grants.
Agents executed a search warrant Tuesday, Catherine Grant, a spokeswoman for the federal Department of Education’s office of the Inspector General, told the Free Press. The institute is tied to the local chapter of the Chabad-Lubavitch, an Orthodox Jewish group with a growing campus in West Bloomfield.
Grant did not say what the raid was about. The Forward, a noted Jewish newspaper, said about 15 agents took part, gathering employees into a room to get personal information and bringing in boxes.
The Forward has reported over the past three years about accreditation challenges the college has faced. In 2012, the Forward published a report that said the Institute was using $25 million in federal aid aimed at low-income students, “but very little of this money has been spent on men and women taking courses in Michigan or … the United States.”
Instead, the majority of its students were found in Israel, the report said. The university operates largely online, with its campus headquartered at the Shul, a synagogue in West Bloomfield that’s part of a complex built by Chabad-Lubavitch. The university’s few in-person classes are held at there, the Forward said.
Rabbi Kasriel Shemtov is president of the institute and spiritual director of the Shul. The Shul is part of the Campus of Living Judaism, which includes the Friendship Circle, a nonprofit that helps specially challenged children.
Shemtov did not return a call seeking comment. Messages left at the institute were not returned.
In a statement published in the Jewish Press, the institute said it “is cooperating fully with the federal authorities. We are continuing operations as normal. We remain committed to our students who rely on the institute, and we appreciate the dedication of our nearly 100 faculty and staff who are focused on our students.
“We will not be providing any further comments until we have more information.”
It also said it has “provided educational opportunity and career pathways for thousands of students over many years, and we are proud of our accomplishments.”
The Forward reported in 2012 that only 10% of freshmen at the institute went on to their sophomore year. In 2011, the institute gave only three bachelor’s degrees. After the report, its “academic record improved dramatically,” the Forward said.
Founded in 1994, the Michigan Jewish Institute said on its website that it offers “carefully chosen, up-to-date and balanced curriculums in business, computer information systems and Judaic studies.”
It said it provides “a warm and intimate learning environment that adheres to the highest ethical standards and religious traditions of Judaism.”
Contact Niraj Warikoo: 313-223-4792, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@nwarikoo