Aid policy changes little for 2012

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.

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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.

Comments

  • Andrew W.

    I don't really think the numbers tell a story here. Storlazzi is right in saying that the full details of the financial aid program only became available after the regular decision application deadline last year.

    The critics who say that Yale hasn't done enough outreach don't seem to have their facts straight. Wait till next year to evaluate the effects of the program.

  • hy652n

    Andrew, you have done yeoman service regarding Yale financial aid. Yale will be a poorer place after you graduate this year.
    Various ways that Yale's (and other schools') financial aid policies still bite:
    1. There is no disclosure before admission that the "income protection allowance" (or similar term) is only about 125% above the poverty level. This means that Yale and other schools expect a family to live on 125% above the poverty level. No school is obligated to assume you live lavishly, but if in awarding aid they expect the family to live at 125% of the poverty level, the schools should make that known. They don't. This could obviously be important to the family's decision about where their child attends college, especially if there are younger children who will now not have the same opportunities as the older Yale undergrad because they can't afford to send Kid #1 to Yale, AND give Kids#2-4 the same opportunities Kid #1 had.
    2. More fundamentally, the schools in setting the "what we think you need to live on" allowance, should peg it to something reasonable, say 125% of median income, rather than 125% of poverty level. The schools may say they are required to do otherwise by the feds. That is baloney. It may be true with federally awarded money, but it is not true regarding the school's own money.
    4. The schools punish parents for making any retirement contributions. Say you earn $90K for the year, and make a reasonable 10% retirment contribution (as any economist would say is what should be done, right President Levin?). Yale treats the family as having $90K in money avialable to fund the Yalie's education, when $9K was set aside in a retirement account that can't be tapped without paying a punitive penalty to the IRS. No school should be required to factor lavish retirement account contributions out of the analysis, but 10-15% is hardly unreasonable. What is unreasonable is for Yale and other schools to treat the family as having all the retirement contribution available for the student's education for the year when in fact none of it is. No family should be put in the position of "Do I fund my retirment or my child's education?"
    5. Final pencil whipping the schools engage in: Every family gets assessed an "Expected Family Contribution." Assume you have two kids in college at the same time(say at different schools). You would expect that each school would get half of the ECF figure. That is not how it works--each takes 60% of the EFC, so the family pays 120% of the EFC. Thus for example if a family has one child in college and it has an EFC of $10K, it pays $10K. Assume that Family #2 also calculates out at a $10K EFC, but it has two kids in college. That family pays $6K to each school--so it pays 20% more than its "Expected" Family Contribution.

    Please bring these points up with Mr. Stolarrzi, and ask the YDN to write an article about what he tells you.

    Yale and a lot of other top schools have to their credit done a lot to improve financial aid, but all of them still pencil whip families with "gotchas" like these, and they don't disclose they are doing so. That is probably the reason they refuse to let you see how they calculated the EFC, and just tell you what the number is, and if you are lucky, they will tell you how they got there, but they won't put it in writing.

    In short, the financial aid process is better than it used to be, but it is still FAR FAR FAR from being upfront and fair.

  • Whoa

    Does the YDN recognize "comments of the year" or something? Because #2 is it.

  • Anonymous

    While Yale's new financial aid policy is much stronger, it helps mainly the middle class. Middle class famililes with a lower family contribution have the ability to cover the required student contribution of $2500. But what if your family lives at the poverty level. Yes, the family contribution would be zero, but the student contribution would remain $2500. How could they pay for that? The low income student would need to take out loans. Overall, I think that if the families make under $40,000 the student contribution should be waived--unless there is something already done.

  • yy64

    #4, the expectation is that the student will earn $2500 from a summer job or term time job. Term time work should not be required, because that means students with a term timejob can't hit the books as hard or participate in extra cirriculars as much as wealthier students. Poor and rich students should be treated alike in that regard(meaning no term time job should be required).

    It is fair for schools to expect that the student will work in the summer, but they should be willing to waive this if the student is doing a summer session, public service, Yale approved study abroad, etc.

  • Ian

    I think they do tend to be good about waiving summer contributions.

    Yale also provides money for term or study abraod. Yale pays very well for on campus jobs which is, in itself, like financial aid. Most students come to Yale with some amount of outside scholarship money, so if the family contribution is not too high, they should not have too much difficulty paying off the student contribution. Besides, most of the student contribution goes to the personal expenses portion of the estimated cost. As a low income student, it is cheaper for me to come here than it would be for me to go to my local community college. Yale pays for my tuition, room and board, and basically only asks that I pay for my personal expenses. Even then, the estimated personal expenses are higher than what is actually necessary assuming you live somewhat modestly and don't eat out all the time. I am thrilled with what Yale financial aid has done for me. I don't even have to pay for my own food, just my books and spending money, and the on campus jobs pay twice as much as any job I could get back home. With my parents losing their jobs in the recession, we would have had a difficult time paying for any college, much less a private school. Thanks, Yale for doing such a tremendous service to me and my family.