87% fear for their economic future

Amid pandemic, most college students out of work, 24% may drop out — survey

Poll shows 51% of students unemployed since start of coronavirus crisis; student union head warns of ‘severe social epidemic’

Students seen on the Safra Campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, on the first day of the new Academic school year, on October 14, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Students seen on the Safra Campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, on the first day of the new Academic school year, on October 14, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Almost one-quarter of Israeli university students are considering quitting their academic studies due to financial stress, with over half having lost their jobs due to the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic, a large survey released Sunday found.

The findings released by the National Association of Students ahead of the start of the academic year on Monday, based on responses from over 10,000 university and college students across the country, painted a bleak picture of student life in Israel.

According to the survey, conducted by the student union along with the Maagar Mochot polling institute, 51 percent of students have lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic, of which 14% were fired and 37% put on unpaid leave.

It total, 75% of students said their regular income had gone down due to the crisis and 87% said they fear for their economic future.

Among those who remain employed, the average full-time monthly salary of students stands at NIS 3,895 ($1,152), a decrease of NIS 748 ($221) compared to 2019, the survey found.

As a result of financial difficulties, some 13% of students say they have had to leave their apartments.

In addition, the poll reported a 27% increase in the amount of student loans taken out before the start of the academic year, with the average loan now standing at NIS 27,204 ($8,052), an increase of NIS 5,924 (27%) compared to 2019.

Shlomi Yehiav, chair of the National Association of Students. (National Association of Students)

“In higher education in Israel, a severe social epidemic is beginning to spread in which only the strong survive,” Shlomi Yehiav, chairman of the National Association of Students, said in a statement along with the release of the survey.

“The government’s failure to reduce youth unemployment and high dropout rates reflects a bleak picture of reality in which students are losing their jobs and apartments, failing to meet payments and dropping out of their degrees,” he said. “We will not accept this reality, and we will continue to fight and act forcefully so that every student and young person in the country will have a real opportunity to graduate and fulfill their dreams.”

Yehiav said that students who were financially affected by the crisis are “left behind and are now being replaced” by students who come with financial backing from their parents.

Most worryingly, according to the Yehiav, the survey found that 24% of all students are now considering quitting their studies due to the increased financial stress, with that figure jumping to 52% among the Arab Israeli population.

According to data compiled by the Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2016-17 the dropout rate for Arab men was 14.3%, and 6.7% for Arab women. This compares to a dropout rate of 8.8% for Jewish men, and 5.9% for Jewish women, for the same period.

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