YCC poll finds dissatisfaction with aid policy

Caught between paying for a world-class education and enjoying all the trappings of a Yale education, many students — close to 67 percent of them, according to a recent campus-wide survey conducted by the Yale College Council — say they find their required financial aid contribution onerous.

The YCC on Monday released the results of a financial aid survey of nearly 700 undergraduates, the first step in a campaign the council is undertaking to encourage the University to modify aspects of its student contribution policy. Council representatives will discuss the results of the survey and propose changes to aid policies at a meeting with Director of Student Financial Services Caesar Storlazzi on Friday.

L to R: Dominique Fenton ’10, Levent Tuzun ’11, Julia Bryzgalina ’10 and Richard Tao ’10 comprise the YCC committee designed to investigate financial aid.
Grant Smith
L to R: Dominique Fenton ’10, Levent Tuzun ’11, Julia Bryzgalina ’10 and Richard Tao ’10 comprise the YCC committee designed to investigate financial aid.

Students working on the project said the survey will help guide the YCC toward its long-term goals of persuading University financial aid officials to reduce the yearly required student contribution by an unspecified amount, and to introduce more flexibility to the timetable of its payment.

Storlazzi declined to comment for this article, saying it would be “premature” for him to discuss the survey before talking with the YCC representatives involved.

In response to the question, “In general, how do you feel with regards to the amount of student contribution expected of you?” 67 percent of 522 respondents said they consider the student contribution to be “high” or “too high,” and 30 percent said they find it “just right.” Only 15 respondents said they think the required contribution is “low” or “too low.”

The “self-help” portion of student financial aid packages currently requires all students receiving aid to contribute $4,400 to their tuition each year.

The results of the survey may have been skewed because more students unhappy with financial aid responded to the survey than students who are content with Yale’s policies, Silliman College representative Richard Tao ’10 said.

Although the survey was open to all Yale College students, Morse College representative Julia Bryzgalina ’10 said the survey’s target demographic was students on financial aid.

The second question on the survey asked, “For how many years have you been on financial aid?” There was no “zero” or “no response” option.

The survey asked students to assess the extent to which the student contribution portion of their financial aid packages played a role in their decision to attend Yale instead of other colleges or universities. Just over 50 percent of those who responded said student contribution figures were a “high” or “[the] highest” priority they had in mind when choosing among schools.

Bryzgalina said she thinks Yale’s successful endowment growth in recent years places it in a position to do more for students on financial aid.

“[The University] can look at it as investment,” Bryzgalina said. “If a student is getting a loan he can’t pay back, he might consider Princeton. We’re losing good students because of that.”

The survey results indicate the University must do more to improve its financial aid policies, which lag behind those of Harvard and Princeton universities, YCC representatives said.

Tao said he thinks Yale’s dependence on loans as an element of financial aid should be re-examined, given that at peer institutions such as Princeton, financial aid in initial award packages comes exclusively in the form of grants students do not need to repay.

Yale’s current policy can leave students with thousands of dollars in loans to repay upon graduation, Tao said. Still, 49 percent students polled said in the survey that they choose to take out loans rather than take a work-study job.

“I don’t think I’m going to be using any of those [work-study] options,” a Jonathan Edwards College freshman receiving financial aid said. “I’ll probably just take out a loan. I don’t want to sacrifice my time like that.”

Assuming survey respondents were all on financial aid, Tao said he estimates nearly one-third of students on financial aid returned a completed survey to the YCC. Council representatives said they were pleased with this response rate, and they said many students had written lengthy responses on the optional write-in section of the survey.

In order to provide more context for the results, Bryzgalina and Tao said, the YCC hopes to work with the Ivy Council — a nonprofit organization consisting of student representatives from Ivy League student governments — to conduct the same survey at other Ivy League schools.

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