Aid efforts see modest results

The percentage of low-income students in the class of 2011 increased by a statistically insignificant percentage over that of the class of 2010, raising questions about the effectiveness of the University’s low-income recruitment initiative.

In the current freshman class, 15.1 percent of the students came from families making less than $60,000 a year, compared to 13.7 percent in the class of 2010, according to data released to the News last week.

Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel said he thinks this growth reflects positively on the admissions office’s efforts to recruit low-income students. But statistics professor Jonathan Reuning-Scherer said the increase is not statistically significant.

The University has never before released data on the percentage of students from families making lest than $60,000 a year, Brenzel said. Harvard, on the other hand, started publishing this information several years ago.

Although the percentage of students from low-income families is statistically insignificant, Brenzel said it is still qualitatively significant.

“We hope to sustain the increase this coming year and keep moving forward,” Brenzel said in an e-mail. “I expect that anyone would have to see sustained increases over time as statistically significant.”

Brenzel attributed the increase to wider awareness of Yale’s low-income initiative for financial aid — first used to recruit the class of 2010 — and other outreach programs designed to attract low-income students.

The low-income student recruitment initiative — which the University announced as part of major financial aid reform in 2005 — eliminated the financial contribution from students whose family incomes are under $45,000 per year, while the parental contribution for families earning less than $60,000 was reduced.

Brenzel declined to release the percentage of families in the classes of 2010 and 2011 that earn under $45,000.

The percentage of low-income students in the class of 2009 is about the same as that in the class of 2010, Brenzel said. Comparisons to classes before 2009 are difficult to make because of gaps in admissions records, changes in the way U.S. income quartiles are measured and the effects of inflation, he said.

“My belief is that there was probably some modest increase in the proportion of lower-income students over the last decade or two, but we can’t quantify it,” Brenzel said. “We started more careful internal tracking when the low-income initiative was established.”

The expanded efforts to attract low-income students to Yale began with the student ambassador program in 2005 and a fly-in program for Bulldog Days for low-income students, Brenzel said.

To build on these efforts this year, Brenzel said Yale will partner with QuestBridge, a nonprofit organization founded by Stanford University alumni to identify high-achieving, low-income students and guide them through the college application process.

By working with QuestBridge, Brenzel said he hopes to reduce what he describes as one of the most significant obstacles to enrolling these students: an informational barrier caused in large part by a lack of quality college counseling.

But Yale Students for Financial Aid Reform member Andrew Williamson ’09 said making Yale’s financial aid information more widely available will not necessarily increase the number of low-income students at Yale.

“I think that there are other factors that play behind the inability of the admissions office to recruit certain groups of people, and that don’t necessarily have to do with the financial aid package,” Williamson said.

The draw of receiving full tuition to a state school — and the financial advantages of staying close to home — may lure students away from Yale despite Yale’s financial aid initiatives, Williamson said.

College advisers at Northside College Preparatory High School in Chicago and Berkeley High School in Berkeley, Calif., two public schools serving low-income students, said Yale has done a good job of publicizing the availability of financial aid.

But Ilene Abrams, college adviser at the public Berkeley High School, said many of her low-income students are simply not qualified to attend Yale.

“In terms of getting tutors both for subjects and for college entrance exams, it’s just a lot harder for lower-income students,” Abrams said. “They also have a lot of distractions in their lives, like taking care of younger brothers and sisters or working a job.”

Yale College’s tuition and fees increased 4.5 percent this year from the 2006-’07 school year, to $45,000. The College Board announced last week that average tuition and fees at private four-year nonprofit institutions increased by 6.3 percent this year.

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