Officials debate aid reforms

As the University considers certain proposed changes to Yale’s financial aid policy, administrators have recently given conflicting recommendations for which changes to prioritize.

At an open forum on Wednesday night, Director of Financial Aid Caesar Storlazzi fielded questions from members of the Yale College Council and other students about the University’s financial aid policies. Yale administrators are currently considering changes to the University’s financial aid policies in light of recent reforms announced by Harvard University, he said. While Yale President Richard Levin has stressed the importance of parental contribution reductions, Storlazzi said he thinks reducing the self-help contribution is a more pressing priority.

Storlazzi said he is committed to reducing Yale’s self-help contribution, a change for which the Undergraduate Organizing Committee has actively campaigned this year. He said he is worried that Levin might instead place a premium on matching Harvard’s plan — which eliminates the parental contribution for students from families with annual incomes below $60,000 and reduces the parental contribution for students from families earning between $60,000 and $80,000 a year, a move which may attract more media attention.

“Reducing the parent contribution makes a better headline,” Storlazzi said.

Levin said he is concerned about how Yale is perceived in comparison with Harvard and that the rivalry may affect future decisions about financial aid reform.

“We would look at how it is affecting our competitiveness in admissions,” he said. “Are we losing students to Harvard or Princeton? This is the sort of thing we go through routinely.”

Storlazzi said all final decisions about budget allocations for financial aid are controlled by the President’s Office.

“It’s a presidential decision,” he said. “[Levin] has to see where he thinks the money should go.”

Hugh Baran ’09, a UOC member who attended the forum, said he supports Storlazzi’s commitment to reducing the self-help levels.

“I’m really glad to hear he is supporting financial aid reform,” he said. “I just hope Levin will start listening to his financial aid director and his students and will recognize this change is needed. … There’s a tension between how the University wants to be perceived versus what’s best for students.”

Baran said that although he would support a change to parental contributions, he thinks the self-help contribution change would more directly affect student life.

Harvard’s financial aid policy change was announced March 30, the day before admissions letters were mailed out.

“Harvard’s change had interesting timing,” Storlazzi said. “They announced the day we were putting the letters out. It was carefully orchestrated so no one could do anything about it.”

Last March, Yale eliminated the parental contribution for students from families earning under $45,000 and reduced it for families earning between $45,000 and $60,000 per year.

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