Financial aid scarce for Architecture students

As the Yale School of Architecture begins to sift through prospective students’ applications, administrators said getting into the school might be tougher than ever. But those admitted will still have another great challenge ahead of them: paying the bills.

Though the school has received more than 1,000 applications for the 65 seats it will offer next fall, beating last year’s record of 989, the school will not be able to increase its financial assistance program because of the budget shortfall, Associate Dean John Jacobson ARC ’70 said. This will leave many students with hefty debts upon graduation.

Currently, the school provides approximately 88 percent of students with some sort of aid — need-based grants, merit-based scholarships or loans — but Jacobson said he estimated that the majority of students were supporting their education through sizeable loans. The remaining 12 percent receive no financial support from the school for the $36,000 yearly tuition.

“We’re not Yale College, unfortunately,” Jacobson said.

The scarcity of financial aid at the school might be deterring admitted students from matriculating, School of Architecture Dean Robert A. M. Stern ARC ’65 said. All students who declined Yale’s offer of admission last year were asked to explain their decision, and though many refused to comment, some said financial constraints prevented them from attending, Stern said.

Last year, after admissions decisions were made, Stern personally phoned admitted students to help them to decide between Yale and its rival architecture schools, Harvard University Graduate School of Design and Princeton University School of Architecture.

“Some students were very candid about their financial difficulties,” Stern said.

Nathan Bright ARC ’10 said he will face $70,000 in debt when he graduates. Currently, he receives $14,000 per year from the school in need-based scholarships, and he said he is taking out as much as possible in loans to alleviate the pressure of having to work or depend on his family for help.

Jacobson said while Harvard is also struggling to help its students with finances, Princeton is able to provide satisfactory funding because of its smaller class size.

“It’s very hard to compete with Princeton on a financial basis,” Jacobson said. “They admit about nine students a year, so they can pay for more.”

Nor can the School of Architecture compare with the School of Music in munificence. The School of Music offers full tuition to all admitted students, regardless of financial need, largely due to a $100 million donation the school received in 2005 from billionaire banker and businessman Stephen Adams ’59 and his wife, Denise.

“I’d like for us to be like the School of Music, but we’re not there yet,” Stern said.

That’s not to say there has been no improvement. Monica Robinson, the senior director of development for the School of Architecture, said the school’s endowment has been growing since 1998 when Stern assumed the deanship and made financial aid — an issue largely ignored in the past — his top priority.

“No one would ever call Bob Stern shy about raising money,” Robinson said.

Indeed, Stern is not shy about taking responsibility for the school’s fundraising efforts.

“If I knew you had money, I would have shaken you,” Stern joked.

But, Jacobson added, there are some students who choose against finances, preferring Yale’s programs and uniquely interconnected students and faculty.

Indeed, Bright said he turned down offers from competing schools, some of which provided better funding, in order to attend Yale. For him, the school’s matchless master of environment design program was reason enough to shoulder the great debts.

“I always say, ‘Do what you want to do, and the money will follow,’ ” he said.

Admissions decisions will be mailed no later than April 1.

Comments

  • josh

    president levin should step in and do something about this. it’s really sad that these students are going into a poorly-paid (but interesting and noble) profession but will be saddled with so much debt. lawyers and doctors and mbas will generally be able to pay off their debt quickly… but for architects it can be very stifling.

  • @josh

    I’m not sure what docs you know who will be able to pay off their debts “quickly.” Have you seen medical student debts? Still, those generous residency checks might cover the interest payments…if you’re lucky.