Financial aid: Shielded from the storm?

Politicians talk about the effects of the Wall Street meltdown on Main Street. But it could also have an effect on Elm Street.

Not only are people unable to take out mortgages or car loans, but some students are beginning to have difficulty getting loans to pay for school.

Students in Yale College are, for the most part, okay. Because of the school’s generous financial-aid program, a student would only need a loan if he or she were to pass over student employment opportunities, Director of Student Financial Services Caesar Storlazzi said in an interview last week. Moreover, the state of the economy should not affect financial aid packages offered by Yale, he said.

Yale’s endowment has grown rapidly in recent years, allowing the University to announce a new financial-aid initiative last year and increase the amount of aid offered to undergraduates. But the pace could slow; the returns on the Yale endowment this year have fallen far short of historical averages, and Yale has announced a number of new spending initiatives, including the creation of two new residential colleges.

When asked whether these new developments might force Yale to reconsider its new financial-aid policy, Storlazzi responded emphatically that “Yale has budgeted far into the future, and the University will have absolutely no difficulty in continuing to offer one of the most comprehensive financial-aid programs in the country.”

As for parents whose assets have declined in value in recent months or who have become unemployed, Storlazzi says that Yale will adjust those students’ packages accordingly.

The same is not the case for some students in Yale’s professional schools who have been having trouble securing loans. One non-profit lender, Total Higher Education, failed to disburse loans to some borrowers because of a shortage of funds. To address the situation, Yale Student Financial Services has offered students advances of up to $1,500 (up from $1,000) on loans and has helped students switch lenders.

“No one knows what the long-terms effects of this crisis will be,” Storlazzi said. More lenders may fail to disburse loans to students when tuitions are due in January, but Yale is prepared to do everything it can to make sure that graduate students can pay their tuitions, he said.

“Yale may consider offering its own loans to graduate students when other lenders are unavailable, though this idea and its feasibility have not been discussed,” he said.

Storlazzi also expressed confidence in other schools’ financial-aid programs and the student loan system in general. He admitted that some schools that recently announced no-loan programs “have somewhat stretched themselves in doing so, unlike Yale,” although he added that it was unlikely that any school would alter its financial-aid program as a result of the credit crisis. Storlazzi was also confident that the government would step in to aid students in the event that private institutions were no longer able to lend.

The current financial crisis is producing devastating effects on many Americans, but, fortunately, Yale students will be shielded from most of the danger.

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