Facing gray skies and even bleaker economic forecasts, admitted students began arriving in New Haven on Monday for Bulldog Days, the University’s three-day program for prospective freshmen.
In over 30 interviews with admitted students, nearly all cited the University’s 2008 financial aid reforms as a deciding factor in their tentative decision to matriculate at Yale over its peer schools. Of the record 1,185 students expected on campus this week for the program, nearly 500 qualified for travel funding assistance, although Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel said he could not estimate the total cost of the subsidies.
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“We maintained our expanded eligibility for assistance and were able accommodate a large number of requests that involved tricky logistics or ticket splitting among other institutions,” he wrote in an e-mail message. “I feel confident that very few students may have decided against coming to Bulldog Days because of cost concerns.”
Nearly all students interviewed displayed a knowledge of Yale’s 2008 financial aid reforms, which eliminated family contributions for students with household incomes below $60,000 and expanded aid to families across upper-middle class income brackets. Despite University-wide budget cuts brought on by a 25 percent drop in the value of Yale’s endowment, financial aid reforms remain in place.
“The financial aid is probably the biggest reason I will come to Yale,” said Ryan Medias, an admitted student from Los Angeles, Calif. “It pretty much clinched the deal for me.”
The same was true for Arturo Garcia, an admitted student from Apple Valley, Calif., who said his financial aid letter “did it for me.”
Garcia, the first in his family to attend college in the United States, had not considered applying to Yale until a member of the class of 2012 told him about the University’s generous financial aid initiatives.
“Because my dad works for General Motors,” said Joy Chen, an admitted student from Northville, Mich., “it is imperative that I get as much financial aid as possible.” (The company plans to cut 47,000 jobs worldwide by the end of the year.)
For about a quarter of those interviewed, preliminary financial aid offers from the University made Yale a cheaper option than other schools under consideration.
“Harvard cost twice as much as Yale for me,” said Daniel Zelaya, an admitted student from Miramar, Fla., adding that Yale also offered him more money than Princeton.
But for Tyler White, an admitted student from Chicago who received a full scholarship from the University of Michigan, the price of a Yale education will be almost $50,000, making it by far the more expensive choice. While he is currently leaning toward the University of Michigan, White said, his college decision will come down to a question of which school he likes more.
A handful of admitted students said the economic recession would not affect their college decision.
“I think Ivy Leagues contribute enough financial aid to students that we can make the decision based solely on the standard of education,” said Jordan Buxton-Punch, an admitted student from Alpharetta, Ga.
Still, for all the careful orchestration that goes into Bulldog Days, there are some things the Admissions Office cannot control: the weather. The National Weather Service forecasts between a tenth and a quarter of an inch of rain for the New Haven area throughout the day Tuesday. Brenzel said he remains optimistic that the weather will not affect admitted students’ decisions.
“I hope that Yale students will do what they always do in the event of a cold or rainy day or two in April in New Haven: show the prefrosh that Yale transcends the elements,” he said.
Correction: Aug. 11, 2012
This article originally reported that admitted student Arturo Garcia was the first member of his family to attend college. He is in fact the the first member of his family to attend college in the United States.