Additional aid has few takers so far

Although Yale announced in mid-November that it would offer additional financial aid to families struggling during the economic crisis, few students have taken the University up on its offer.

As of Jan. 9, the Office of Financial Aid has received 26 requests for financial aid recalculations for the spring semester for reasons connected specifically to the current economic crisis, Director of Student Financial Services Caesar Storlazzi told the News. The office granted 24 of the requests, requiring a $144,752 increase in this year’s financial aid budget, he said.

Of the 26 applications, five came from students who had not previously been on financial aid, Storlazzi said, adding that only one of these five did not receive a scholarship after review.

The number of requests was less than expected, Storlazzi said, though students still have two months to submit new financial aid applications by the March 15 deadline for the 2009 spring term.

In total, Yale has received 56 requests for spring term financial aid review this year, compared to 43 for last year’s spring term, he said.

The average increase in financial aid for the 24 students impacted by the economy was $6,031; adjustments ranged from $237 to $17,686, Storlazzi said.

Storlazzi said any significant rise in financial aid applications will likely occur over the summer, when students apply for aid for the upcoming 2009-’10 academic year.

“I think we’re going to see more of an effect in the [financial aid] applications for the next academic year,” he said. “We’re hearing about layoffs now. I think people are going to be affected in February, March and April and are going to be concerned about paying for next year.”

In an interview Tuesday, University President Richard Levin concurred, saying he did not expect the impact of the economic crisis to be seen right away. Yale remains committed to meeting all demonstrated student need, Levin added, despite the estimated 25 percent plunge in the University’s endowment.

The low number of students seeking spring term financial aid recalculations — less than half of a percentage point of Yale’s total undergraduate population — likely speaks to the strength of Yale’s new financial aid program, implemented for the first time this year, Storlazzi said.

“Our new policies are so generous, that we really are taking care of people in a way that, maybe, many people did not have to ask for a review,” Storlazzi said.

Yale is not the only school to receive economy-related aid requests. This year many colleges and universities across the country have seen a spike in applications for additional financial aid in the winter and spring, said Justin Draeger, vice president of planning at the National Association for Financial Aid Administrators.

Yale’s slight increase in requests for aid recalculations seems “typical,” said Mark Kantrowitz, a college financial aid expert and publisher of Finaid.org. It is becoming increasingly common for families to seek aid recalculations, he said, though many families still do not utilize this service because they are unaware of it.

Kantrowitz agreed that Yale’s financial aid program likely led to the lower-than-expected number of recalculations, particularly because Yale has eliminated the need for student loans, which have become increasingly difficult to procure during the economic recession.

While Yale will not likely expand the framework for its financial aid program given last year’s sweeping overhaul, announced last January, the University is prepared to expand financial aid as much as it is needed within its current framework, Deputy Provost Lloyd Suttle said.

About 2,600 of Yale’s roughly 5,300 undergraduates currently receive financial aid.

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