YCC survey: middle-class aid a priority

Increased assistance for middle- and upper-middle-class families should be the University’s top priority when it announces sweeping financial-aid reforms as early as today, according to 54 percent of respondents in a recent Yale College Council survey.

The poll — which the YCC decided to commission after Harvard University unveiled an overhaul of its financial-aid system last month — also found that 29.1 percent of students who responded think Yale should focus most on upping aid for lower-income families. Over half of those polled identified the reduction of term-time self-help requirements as the most important or second-most important change the University can enact in those of its policies that regulate student contributions.

YCC officials said they are happy with the number of responses — 1,815 — they received to the poll, which was e-mailed to the entire undergraduate student body between Dec. 30 and Jan. 3. They expressed confidence that the results of the survey, which the Council assimilated into a 25-page report, would be helpful to financial-aid officers in improving Yale’s policies in ways that most benefit current students.

“The ridiculous rate of turnout is indicative that students are passionate about this issue,” Silliman College representative Richard Tao ’10 said, noting that more than one-third of students responded to the poll over winter break.

The majority — 54.5 percent — of those who participated in the poll said they currently receive some form of financial aid. In 2005-2006, over 41 percent of all undergraduates received need-based aid from Yale.

The response from the Yale administration has been extremely positive, YCC representatives said. University President Richard Levin told Bloomberg News last week that Yale’s upcoming changes to financial aid will target students whose families make up to $200,000 a year.

Replacing student loans with grant aid ranked third on the list of students’ priorities for aid changes, followed by a reduction in term-time self-help requirements.

Several students used the free-response portion of the survey to register their dissatisfaction with what the YCC report calls a “dichotomy of students based on socioeconomic background.” Students who spend 10 to 15 hours a week participating in work-study must sacrifice many of the extracurricular activities and academic opportunities their wealthier peers take advantage of, YCC representatives said.

“A student on financial aid experiences one kind of Yale, and a student not on financial aid experiences another kind of Yale,” Council President Rebecca Taber ’08 said.

Yale’s expectations for student contributions “severely limit” students’ ability to devote time to classes and extracurricular activities and are “nearly impossible” for student athletes to fulfill, the report reads.

Administrators considered the burden on students who must work while formulating the soon-to-be-announced changes to Yale’s financial aid, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel said.

In addition to term-time student contributions, the report pointed to increased financial aid for families with a non-custodial parent and the elimination of home equity from aid calculations as top student concerns.

YCC representatives had been planning a comprehensive financial-aid survey for months after originally being told by administrators that an official announcement would likely not come until April, Taber said. But she said the Council’s timetable shifted when Harvard announced it would eliminate student loans and reduce middle- and upper-middle-class families’ parental contributions, and Council members scrambled to put together an exhaustive survey before the end of the fall semester.

The Council also administered a more limited survey focusing solely on student-contribution requirements in November.

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