The proportion of low-income students in Yale’s freshman class increased by less than 1 percentage point from 2007 to 2008, Director of Student Financial Services Caesar Storlazzi told the News.
Currently, 16.1 percent, or 212 students, of the class of 2012 have families with incomes of less than $60,000, compared to 15.2 percent in the class of 2011 last year. Two years ago, 13.7 percent of the members of the freshman class, the class of 2010, were in this low-income bracket.
The slight increase in the number of low-income students — 11 more students under the $60,000 threshold — is not surprising given that the class of 2012 applied before Yale announced its new financial aid policy last January, Storlazzi said.
“The class of 2012 applied with our old financial aid policies in mind,” he said. “There’s a huge difference in the policies that were in existence when the class of 2012 applied.”
Under the previous policy, students were automatically granted a zero parent contribution if their income was below $45,000, while the new policy offers this incentive to families with incomes below $60,000. Yale asks families making between $60,000 and $120,000 to pay between 1 and 10 percent of family income on average. Families making between $120,000 and $200,000 to are expected to contribute on average 10 percent of their income toward tuition.
This change likely attracted a larger number of low-income students apply to join the Yale class of 2013, Storlazzi said.
“The class of 2013 had full knowledge of the incredible policies that took effect this year,” he said. “I think we’re going to see some big differences.”
But Mark Kantrowitz, a college financial aid expert and publisher of FinAid.org, said Yale’s new financial aid policy — which targets the middle class — may end up muscling out more low-income students.
“You’re not going to see increases in applications from only low-income students, but also from middle-income students,” he said. “Yale may have a disproportionate increase in the number of middle-income students that might squeeze out the low-income students.”
Kantrowitz said the University should resolve this issue by considering a student’s low-income background as a positive factor when evaluating his or her application.
And to a degree, the University already does this.
Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel said Yale aims to admit talented students from a variety of backgrounds.
“We aggressively seek out highly qualified low-income students,” Brenzel said in an e-mail to the News. “[We] pay close attention in the selection process to personal circumstances that affect what opportunities a particular student may or may not have been able to engage or afford.”
For the first time, the Office of Student Financial Services also released to the News the percentages of freshmen in income brackets below $45,000. This figure increased marginally, from 9.9 percent in the class of 2011 to to 10.8 percent in the freshman class of 2012.
While the percentages of students under the $45,000 and $60,000 barriers increased slightly, the percentage of students with incomes between $45,000 and $60,000 remained flat for the freshman classes of 2011 and 2012, at 5.3 percent and 5.2 percent respectively.
Storlazzi and Brenzel agreed that the rise in the number of low-income students in the class of 2012 was most helped by the University’s new partnership with QuestBridge that year. Of the members of the class of 2012, 56 were matched with Yale through the program, which connects high-achieving, low-income students with top universities like Yale.
“I don’t think we would have seen a rise [in the percentage of low-income students] in the class of 2012 unless we had partnered with QuestBridge,” Storlazzi said.
Still, Yale could and should do more to admit a greater proportion of low-income students, said Cynthia Ortiz, the college guidance counselor at New Haven Academy, a local public school primarily serving low-income students.
Many low-income students are unaware of Yale’s financial aid policy and have been brought up believing that an education at a school like Yale is out of reach, she said.
“Students right around the neighborhood around Yale never set foot on campus because they may perceive Yale as being of limited access,” she said.
But Brenzel said the University has been engaged in a variety of outreach programs for low-income students including QuestBridge, targeted mailings, the student ambassadors program, cooperation with community based organizations and a focused travel strategy for admissions officers.
Yale’s financial aid budget for the current academic year exceeds $86 million, and more than 55 percent of current freshmen receive some form of financial aid.