Groups seek aid reform

The two groups that led the fight for financial aid reform last year are moving forward with plans for further changes, with the Undergraduate Organizing Committee preparing to announce its plan and the Yale College Council readying a survey to solicit student comment.

After a week of canvassing freshmen, the UOC will officially unveil a new financial aid platform this Wednesday which will call on Yale to halve both academic year self-help and the summer contribution portions of its financial aid package, according to a preliminary draft of the platform which has not yet received official approval from the committee. Meanwhile, the Yale College Council is in the process of creating a student survey — which will be posted on YaleStation in coming weeks — to assess how satisfied students are with last year’s reforms and how the University’s policies can be further changed.

While it is not likely that the University will make any major overhauls to its financial aid policy this year, it is working on incremental changes such as increased recruitment efforts in low-income areas, Yale President Richard Levin said.

“I think that the current budget situation, given all we put into financial aid last year, makes it less likely,” Levin said. “It’s important to make the changes we made last year effective.”

But UOC member Josh Eidelson ’06 said he thinks the University should initiate further reforms in addition to the ones it introduced last year, when it eliminated the parental contribution for students from families earning under $45,000 and reduced that contribution for students from families earning between $45,000 and $60,000.

“Most students I talked to were excited about the changes made last year, but thought they didn’t go far enough,” Eidelson said. “I would say the significant majority of students thought the current student contribution was too much.”

Yale currently expects students on financial aid to contribute $4,400 each to their education through a combination of loans and work study. The University’s summer contribution stands at $1,725 for freshmen and $2,250 for sophomores, juniors and seniors.

The new UOC platform will also likely call on the University to reduce the family contribution for students whose parents earn above $60,000, make the financial aid process more accessible for students, take better account of unique family situations, increase the number of paid community service positions on campus, and require freshmen to attend a mandatory financial aid information session at the beginning of the year, according to the preliminary draft of the platform.

The reforms implemented last spring are a good start, but Yale should reduce student contribution levels, Jessica Harris ’08 said.

“You can’t ask students to work 20 hours a week,” Harris said. “It’s not doable or reasonable, and it means that students are unable to participate in extracurriculars, which are a part of what Yale is about.”

But Yale Conservative Party Vice-Chairman Zheyao Li ’06 said he thinks further reforms at this time are premature and it is important to give the University time to assess the effects of last year’s changes.

“I’d say it’s absolutely going overboard,” Li said. “The student contribution is here for a reason, to give students an opportunity to earn their keep. There’s no real reason for Yale to be cutting the student contribution­ ­– it’s really not that high to begin with and it’s reasonable that it should be there in its current form.”

The YCC will form its financial aid recommendations after reviewing the online survey results, Council Vice President Marissa Brittenham ’07 said.

“What we want to do this year is target student opinion and we really want to frame our proposal around student opinion,” she said.

Yale Director of Financial Aid Caesar Storlazzi said the University’s Subcommittee on Admissions and Financial Aid is currently looking into possible improvements as part of its ongoing review of Yale’s policies.

“We’re certainly going to look at student effort levels in comparison to our closest competitors and see what Yale has to do, if anything, in regard to those numbers,” Storlazzi said.

At Harvard, the self-help contribution stands at $3,650 while Princeton expects an average of about $2,875 for self-help — freshmen at Princeton are expected to contribute $2,545, sophomores $2,950, juniors $2,985, and seniors $3,015. Meanwhile, the summer contribution at Harvard this year is an average of about $2,087 — $1,850 for freshmen, $2,000 for sophomores, $2,200 for juniors, and $2,300 for seniors. But Princeton expects an average summer contribution of about $2,760 — $2,185 for freshmen, $2,775 for sophomores, $2,950 for juniors, and $3,120 for seniors.

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