Woolsey rally calls for aid reform

Calling on Yale to improve its financial aid policy, about 125 students gathered in the Woolsey Rotunda Monday, rallying in support of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee’s platform for financial aid reform, which urges Yale to halve student self-help levels and reduce family contribution levels .

Featuring several student speakers, the purpose of the rally was to pressure Yale President Richard Levin to personally meet with students to discuss changes to the University’s financial aid policy, UOC member Josh Eidelson ’06 said. The UOC is calling on Yale to increase economic diversity among its student body, decrease students’ financial burden, and increase the transparency and accountability of the financial aid office.

Phoebe Rounds ’07, another member of the UOC, said she was disappointed that the group has so far been unable to schedule a meeting with Levin to discuss its proposals.

“I know all of us here would like to see some change while we’re here at this University,” Rounds said. “I really think as 1,000 signatures demonstrate and this rally demonstrates, we shouldn’t have to wait six weeks for a meeting.”

But Levin said he has responded to members of the UOC and plans on addressing the Yale community on issues of financial aid.

“I responded to them and said that I talked to the YCC and that we would devote at least half of the next open forum to the issue of financial aid, that they were invited, and that I set a date, Feb. 22, where I would be available to answer questions from the whole community on financial aid,” Levin said.

Yale Dean of Admissions Richard Shaw said University officials would carefully consider the UOC’s proposals, but that all financial aid policies must be looked at in the larger context of the Yale budget.

“I think it’s understandable from the student’s perspective and certainly from the family’s perspective, but we also have strong feelings about the importance of one’s contributing to their own education,” Shaw said. “It shouldn’t necessarily be free and kids should work part-time. I think that’s an important principle.”

One of the central proposals of the UOC platform is to cut self-help levels in half from the current amount of $4,200, which all students on financial aid must pay, to $2,100, so that it can be met by a campus job of 10 hours per week. In comparison, Harvard’s self-help level is set at $3,500 and Princeton’s self help levels range from $2,465 to $2,925, depending on students’ grade levels.

As a result of these lower self-help levels, students at Harvard work an average of 10 to 12 hours per week, while students at Princeton work about nine hours a week on average, according to the universities’ financial aid fact sheets. Students at Yale who receive financial aid currently work about 14 to 15 hours a week on average, Yale Financial Aid Director Myra Smith said.

Lea Oksman ’06 said she did not consider the amount of student work hours to be problematic.

“I have worked 17 to 20 hours before at Yale, and all I can say is that it can be done really, and it’s not that big of a deal, and I am grateful for the financial aid Yale has given me,” Oksman said.

The UOC platform also calls on Yale to eliminate the family contribution for families with an annual income of $40,000 or less — a policy modeled after the 2004 Harvard Financial Aid Initiative.

The platform further urges a reduction in students’ summer contributions, increased recruitment in rural and low income areas, keeping dorms open for international students during winter breaks and providing funding for more than one trip home each year, mandatory financial aid information sessions for freshmen, increased training for freshman counselors on issues of financial aid, and more published data on the economic makeup of Yale College students.

This morning, members of the UOC presented Levin with a copy of their petition as well as a stack of comment forms on financial aid from rally attendees.

Students write comments on cards to show their support for financial aid reform and a meeting to discuss proposed changes during a rally in the Woolsey Rotunda Monday.
Stephanie Spiers
Students write comments on cards to show their support for financial aid reform and a meeting to discuss proposed changes during a rally in the Woolsey Rotunda Monday.

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