It is unlikely that the University will enact significant changes to its financial aid policy this year after enacting sweeping changes roughly nine months ago, Yale President Richard Levin said at an open forum Tuesday evening.
Levin fielded questions from students primarily on the issue of undergraduate financial aid at the Yale College Council-sponsored forum, which drew a crowd of approximately 60 attendees. Although decreasing students’ financial burden is a concern, Levin said, there are a number of other items on the University’s agenda this year that make aid reform difficult.
“This probably will not be a year in which we make any more dramatic moves, such as lowering self-help,” he said. “There are many competing priorities in Yale’s budget.”
Levin cited financial aid at Yale’s graduate schools and the salaries of the University’s staff and professors as examples of other demands on its budget.
“Is it a higher priority that the University get the debt down in the Drama School, where average debt is $40,000 or $60,000, or to get it down in Yale College?” he said. “I would like to do more for every school, but we have to make choices.”
Yale’s financial aid policies are among the most generous in the nation and lag only slightly behind Princeton’s, which are the most generous in the country, Levin said.
“We think we have a very strong financial aid program,” he said. “It’s competitive with virtually every school in the country, just a shade behind one or two of our peer institutions.”
But Hugh Baran ’09 said he thinks Yale trails significantly behind Princeton in the area of financial aid.
“It seems that we are a lot more than a shade behind Princeton,” Baran said. “Isn’t part of what this university stands for the idea of being a global university? Wouldn’t it be a great example to allow the student contribution to be waived?”
The YCC and the Undergraduate Organizing Committee have called on the University this semester to reduce student self help and summer contribution levels. 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.
Another forum attendee, Jen James ’08, questioned the cooperation of financial aid officers at Student Financial Services, but Levin said the University is working on making the office more welcoming for students.
“I’m very sympathetic,” Levin said. “The financial aid office is not the only office at Yale where we could do better on telephone courtesy. We’re working on it all throughout the organization.”
Phoebe Rounds ’07 said she thinks Levin’s answers reflected the differences in his priorities and those of many students.
“It’s clear that financial aid is a priority of students and alumni,” she said. “But I would like to see it as a higher priority for Yale.”
Levin spent the remainder of the forum answering questions on other issues, such as the proposed Yale-New Haven Hospital Cancer Center, the University’s investment in companies that do business in Sudan, and the extension of organic menu items to all of the residential college dining halls.