Yale’s reaction to financial aid weakens claim to socio-economic diversity

To the Editor:

The reaction of the Yale administration to Princeton’s groundbreaking financial aid reforms and now Harvard’s substantial improvements (“Following Princeton, Harvard beefs up aid,” 2/22) causes great concern over the University’s commitment to socio-economic diversity.

Provost Alison Richard’s insistent comments that there are “Ivy League principles” being abandoned seem to lament the passage of the days since Yale and the other Ivy League universities illegally colluded to fix financial awards among schools. It was just in 1992 when the Justice Department found the Ivy League and MIT guilty of breaking anti-trust laws. In its investigation, the Justice Department found an organized system of penalties in place to punish the schools within the Ivy League that dared to offer more competitive and affordable financial aid packages to students.

Since the end of that system, competition between universities, coupled with surging endowments, have brought about the much-heralded financial aid reforms of the last three years.

The true cost per student of a Yale education exceeds the $34,000 that the University requires of families today. In that sense, every undergraduate receives the benefit of a “grant” from the University. But only the poorest quarter of the Yale population is required to leave Yale with college debt. So when administrators speak of the “partnership” among students, families and University, they speak of a selective partnership.

The new plans cost Princeton roughly $5 million and Harvard just over $8 million per year because of its greater socio-economic diversity and larger undergraduate enrollment; certainly the cost to Yale would fall in the middle. With a surging endowment of $10 billion, more optimistic responses should emerge from University administrators. If Yale is truly committed to a diverse undergraduate community, Princeton’s challenge must be met.

The Princeton plan, coupled with inaction at Yale, could bring back the days when the University was solely for aristocratic males. At present Yale President Richard Levin can state with confidence that Yale attracts a different and more diverse student body than Princeton. But Yale’s lack of action threatens to undercut the truth of that statement in future years.

Andrew Morley ’01

February 22, 2001

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