Aid boost brings smiles, mostly

For many students, Yale’s announcement of its sweeping, new financial aid plan was not shocking.

Some students were happy to hear news of increased aid, but some said that the plan is still not competitive with the ones Princeton and Harvard universities laid out. Yale committed an additional $7.5 million financial aid largely to lower the amount of money students are expected contribute to their aid plans.

The self-help requirement — a combination of term-time work and loans — will be reduced to $3,900 per year for all students beginning next year. Unlike the Harvard and Princeton plans, Yale’s new policy also lowers student summer contributions, allowing the new grant money to be used flexibility to cover loans, term time work or summer work.

The Yale plan does not focus on eliminating all student loans, which is the cornerstone of Princeton’s recent financial aid commitment. Some students did not realize that Yale’s self-help portion will now be lower than Princeton’s.

“I think we’re definitely behind Princeton,” Leah Walker ’03 said. “Loans make a big difference in your major and what type of job you take after school.”

Because of some sentiments that Yale is lagging behind Harvard and Princeton, some students said Wednesday’s announcement should only be a beginning point for future reform.

“It sounds like a good idea,” Adam Frank ’02 said. “We’re definitely chasing Harvard, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Some students saw more benefits in Yale’s new plan.

“Using [the new financial aid policy] as a way to attract the most talented students and giving them a chance to go to school without worrying about the financial part is great,” Mai Ha ’02 said.

Yale’s plan is distinctive in that the new grant money can be used not only for loans and term time work, but also to cover part of students’ summer expectation to their aid packages. Some students appreciated this added flexibility.

“I thought that the self-help was outrageous to begin with,” Shelita Stewart ’04 said. “During the summer, you don’t make that much money and the little money you do make you use to buy books and things like that. Now, I think it’s where it should have been in the first place.”

But Walker said Yale’ self-help requirement is still in need of improvement.

“The whole thing is ridiculous because if you want to do research, you get two or three thousand dollars that should go to self-help, but you have to buy books and things with it, so usually your parents end up paying it anyway,” Walker said.

The Yale College Council sponsored a resolution last semester that called for more drastic changes than those adopted in this week’s financial aid plan. Abbey Hudson ’03, a former YCC representative who sponsored the resolution, said the new plan does not eliminate the divisions that the self-help requirements of financial aid create.

“If you burden half of the student body with loans then their experience is not the same as other students,” Hudson said. “I think we should eliminate the two-tiered system.”

Hudson said she was disappointed that Yale seemed to follow Harvard and Princeton’s announcements instead of proactively reforming its own aid.

But some freshmen were particularly happy with the announcement, and some said financial aid packages played a part in their decision to attend Yale.

“It was a factor, but it wasn’t a big factor, not a deciding factor,” Yaw Anim ’05 said.

Along with the impending reduction in self-help, Yale increased student wages this year by about 28 percent for most jobs. The wage increase benefits all workers — even those not on financial aid — and many students were grateful for the opportunity to earn more money in fewer hours.

“The wage increase was good because after talking to friends to other schools [I found out that] we already made more than students at other schools,” Stewart said.

Hudson said that although she was ultimately pleased with the newest reform, more work is needed.

“I think the most important thing to do is assemble the people and get a dialogue going again,” Hudson said. “Then we can see what students want and make sure we get that.”

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