YCC satisfied with changes to financial aid

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Yale College Council officials welcomed the University’s announcement yesterday of increased financial aid for middle- and upper-middle-class families, saying it represented a success for the YCC, which had been pushing the administration hard on the issue for over a year.

“Personally, I’m very excited and I think the whole YCC was definitely very pleased to see that not only is the University making truly significant changes, but it is taking student preferences into account,” Council President Rebecca Taber ’08 said.

Other Council members also offered praise for the new changes, which they said addressed the student body’s principal concerns on financial aid.

“It’s exactly what we wanted — well, some of the stuff we wanted,” Morse College representative Julia Bryzgalina ’10 said of the changes. “But it’s definitely progress. … Obviously there are things to work on, but those will always be there.”

In the months leading up to the University’s announcement Monday, the YCC released the results of two surveys that Council members hoped would give administrators a sense of students’ top financial-aid concerns. The first, conducted between Oct. 30 and Nov. 7, generated almost 700 unique responses, 67 percent of whom said they generally felt the student-contribution portion of University aid packages to be “high” or “too high.”

Of 1,800 students who responded to the second survey, conducted between Dec. 30 and Jan. 3, 54 percent said they thought the University’s top financial-aid priority should be giving more aid to middle-class families.

Since September, a YCC project team comprising Bryzgalina and YCC representatives Rich Tao ’10, Dominique Fenton ’10 and Levent Tuzun ’11 has been working with the administration to generate realistic proposals for financial-aid reform, with special emphasis on a reduction in the student contribution. According to survey data, over half of student respondents for the second poll identified such a reduction as the most important or second-most important concern about financial aid.

“[The surveys] definitely contributed to financial aid being on the [University’s] agenda,” YCC Secretary David Narotsky ’09 said. “I like to think that we really helped because we gave them a student perspective — we gave them a ranking of what students wanted to see happen. That was a novel approach to tackling financial aid.”

YCC representatives hailed the move as “major progress,” “a great leap forward” and “impressively comprehensive.” Though concerned that certain changes the YCC envisioned — proposed reductions in summer contributions, among others — were not included in the announcement, representatives were more excited about the new changes than frustrated that other minor items were left out.

If the YCC’s own data are correct, students will not be too disappointed by the omissions.

“The reduction in summer contributions wasn’t one of the most urgent things students wanted to see when given a choice between that and other changes,” Bryzgalina said, referencing the latest survey.

Tao said he thinks the lighter financial burden on students during the academic year will likely allow students to take lower-paying internships during the summer. Given the 43.2-percent reduction in the term-time student contribution to “self-help,” students may no longer feel the same pressure to find lucrative summertime employment, which was formerly needed to bolster the funds earned during the school year.

Narotsky and Tao were quick to praise the administration’s dealings with YCC representatives on financial aid and acknowledged that factors other than Council pressure no doubt influenced the University’s decision. But Narotsky said he is not concerned with whether the YCC gets any credit — “It’s a great change. We’re just glad to see it happen,” he said.

The YCC plans to review the University’s reform in detail over the coming weeks, and several members left the door open for more action on the issue.

“I think we’re all very pleased by Yale’s move,” Taber said. “But I think it would be short-sighted to say there’s not more that they could do. I hope that future councils will continue to pressure the administration to be even more generous.”

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