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Yale students are by and large pleased with Yale’s sweeping financial aid reforms, but more work remains to be done, the Yale College Council wrote in a report released this week.The ongoing financial crisis has created a continued need for financial aid reform at Yale, the report, which the YCC is circulating among administrators, states. The council suggests a range of policy changes, including a new way of calculating aid packages that would reduce the weight given to home equity, an increase in the annual travel award and reduction of the self-help contribution required of students.
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The report originated with a November 2008 YCC survey of 1,417 Yale students — targeted to those on financial aid — asking them to evaluate last year’s aid reforms and assess their own financial situations given the economic crisis.
“The results of this survey show that a lot of the problems that originally existed such as loans, lower incomes and middle incomes have largely been solved by the policy,” YCC President Rich Tao ’10 said. “But that there still exist other problems.”
While the economic crisis has increased student need, it may also prevent Yale from expanding its financial aid policies in the upcoming year, Director of Student Financial Services Caesar Storlazzi said.
“We always take these kinds of comments into account when planning for the future,” Storlazzi said. “But we’re in an extraordinary economic situation this year, which will probably prevent us from doing any kind of big change in the next year.”
Still, Storlazzi reaffirmed Yale’s commitment to its expanded financial aid policy — a commitment underscored in University President Richard Levin’s letter to the faculty last week. And despite the crisis, Storlazzi said, few students have asked for financial aid recalculations for this semester, although the office may see an uptick in aid applications for the upcoming 2009-’10 academic year.
Tao said the survey revealed that while Yale’s overall aid packages were in many cases sufficient, the crisis was affecting students in smaller ways. For example, students are finding themselves squeezed when it comes to finding money for travel to and from their homes and for daily expenses, areas the YCC hopes Yale can address through a reallocation of funds.
“I don’t know where you could reallocate from,” said Tao, “But I see potential places where you could reallocate to.”
For example, YCC representative Kevin Beckford ’11, a member of the committee that produced the report, said the quantitative data gathered by the survey showed a need to improve upon the $750 currently allotted to students for travel each year.
More than a third of respondents said they spend over $1,000 a year on travel. The report recommends increasing the amount of funds dedicated to student travel in order to allow students on financial aid to return home about as often as students who can afford the full tuition price.
“Students are going home more, and $750 might not be adequate for that,” Beckford said. “[Airfare] is so volatile in this current condition.”
For YCC representative and committee member Sabrina Karim ’11, the issue is a personal one. Karim, who lives in Canada, only returns home twice a year on average, she said, rather than the four times she would prefer to return.
The report also calls on Yale to reduce the amount of the student self-help contribution, both for term-time work and summer income. In the 2008-’09 academic year, freshmen on financial aid are expected to contribute at least $1,200 during the academic year, while sophomores, juniors and seniors are asked to contribute at least $2,450.
Still, Storlazzi noted that in order to afford the current term-time contribution policy, upperclassmen only need to work about seven hours per week, although some may work extra to cover personal expenses.
In the November survey, about 85 percent of the 1,417 respondents that they were at least moderately satisfied with last year’s financial aid reforms.