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.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    A few points:
    1. The photo: Two girls names in the description, but it appears that only one girl is in the photo.
    2. Andrew Williamson (Yale '09) I believe should be consulted be one of the YCC reps. He has some excellent ideas on Yale financial aid. He is aggressive (but not offensive) in asserting his position, which is what you want for a student representative on an issue like this. If that won't work, please YCC reps get his input before your Friday meeting.
    3. More importantly: Yale's aid is not up to par to its peers. My kid got offerred significantly more $ from Columbia than Yale , but she loved Yale more so she opted for Yale. A friend had his kid admitted to multiple Ivies and Stanford last year, and Yale's offer was not competitive. He opted for Harvard. Many other similar stories exist.
    4. With a few of the meagerest drops from the sweat of Yale's endowment brow, loans could be done away with. Loans are a dreadful burden. It encourages students in choosing a job or career to pick only the higher paying options to get that monkey off their back ASAP. Also a work obligation harms students from doing what they should be doing: Studying or participating in meaningful extracirriculars. Students who have these burdens don't get as much out of their four years as students who don't have them. A modest amount of money would enable the self-help to be entirely done away with. Yale will almost surely get more than its money back years later-- a student who had no self-help burden will feel much better about his or her yale experience than one who did, and those without this burden will donate to yale at a much higher rate than those with it. Yale is being penny wise and pound foolish.
    6. Yale may say it is doing what it does with self-help due to federal regulations. That is true with FEDERAL money, but most aid comes form yale's funds, so this argument is bogus.
    7. If you have multiple kids in college, Yale (and others) require the family to pay more than their expected family contribution. For example if you have two kids in college, and the EFC is $10K, yale and the other school will each require $6K, so the family pays a total of $12K altho the ECF is $10K. So you pay 120% of the EFC. This is compounded by the fact that the EFC is computed by assuming that the family is living only moderately above the poverty level. The target for computing EFC should be a middle class figure, not a figure just a bit above federal poverty level. Assume Kid #1 goes to Yale. With the way the EFC is currently computed, the other younger kids at home suffer and don't have the opportunities Kid #1 did since the EFC sucks up so much of the family's income. Not fair to the younger kids.
    7. All of this would be not so offensive but for the fact that Yale has got so much money (of which I am glad), but it seems more interested in empire building (two new colleges) than taking care of the students it already has (making financial changes of the type mentioned above).

    So politely get in Stolarrzi's face about this and more importanlty get an audience with President Levin and the Yale Corp. Don't just meet with Stollarzi and let him report to Levin or the Corp. Make this an issue and press it with the people with the power to make the decisions.
    Good luck!!

  • Anonymous

    GUYS CAN BE NAMED DOMINIQUE TOO.

  • Anonymous

    such a sense of entitlement. it's ludicrous that some people think that they deserve a free education at one of the finest institutions in the world. haven't you ever heard that working builds character?

    i'm all for reducing the cost of yale for all students (to make it more reasonable so that more families can afford it), not just for some.

  • Anonymous

    I whole-heartedly support the first post. Yale, stop being stingy. I sense that our university is already on the decline. Stop Take the advice from your own admissions officers= quality over quantity. Support and enhance the students here. Don't overcrowd Yale.

    PS: Poor Fenton

  • Anonymous

    to the third poster: "haven't you ever heard that working builds character?"

    well, if this is true, then why is it that the most financially stressed and poor are the ones with jobs? why isn't work-study mandated for all students?

  • Anonymous

    My apologies to Dominique. I had forgotten that "Dominique" can be a male name too. How could I have forgotten for example the awesome NBA Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins(also known as "The Human Highlight Film").

  • Anonymous

    The "most financially stressed and poor" aren't the only ones with jobs. Something like 1/3 of Yale student employees are not on financial aid. Yes, Yale is expensive, so it justifiably offers very generous financial aid. This does not mean that people should expect to attend Yale free of charge - even if you can only contribute a little, you can still help take responsibility for your own education.

  • Anonymous

    While I make a comfortable living, I couldn't afford the full cost of a Yale education for my daughter. What I pay I consider a comfortable, fair sacrifice. I am paying more for my other child to attend a local university. I don't know when education became such a low priority in many parts of the country that one has to be wealthy or become indebted for life to obtain one. I feel fortunate that my child can obtain such a superior education at a price that is fair but not a life long burden. So no compaints here.

  • Anonymous

    Who is talking about attending free of charge? Yale figures out your Expected Family Contribution (which assumes the family needs somewhat slightly above poverty level to live on). So the family has to pay that. Then if the cost to attend is more than the Expected Family Contribution, you then get aid from Yale. This aid is composed now of three parts: Work, loan, and if you still need more, a Yale grant. All I (the original poster) am saying is ditch the work and loan obligations. The Family still has to pay the Expected Family Contribution (which factors in the student's income and assets). The financial cost to Yale of ditching the work and loan components would be piddly, but the benefit to the students would be great (and lead to more gratitude, and thus they would be much more likely to contribute more to Yale after they have more financial resources later in their lives).