Salovey addresses financial aid, online education

President-elect Peter Salovey responded to student concerns on financial aid, online education and introductory STEM classes at Monday’s YCC Open Forum.
President-elect Peter Salovey responded to student concerns on financial aid, online education and introductory STEM classes at Monday’s YCC Open Forum. Photo by Sari Levy.

President-elect Peter Salovey offered a sounding board for student concerns by discussing University resources and student engagement in STEM classes and online education at the Yale College Council Open Forum Monday night.

During the forum, which roughly 50 students attended, Salovey responded to six prescreened questions about athletics, education in STEM fields, the relationship between students and administrators, sustainability, online education and financial aid. Salovey said he supports expanding the field of online education at Yale beyond the online course experience to providing user-specific learning and broadening the global reach of the University.

“Online tools can expand Yale’s reach,” he said. “I’m not as sure that they’ll have a radical transformation of what happens in the classroom, but they can allow a lot more people to have access to Yale’s resources.”

Salovey used the concept of a “flip-classroom,” in which students watch online lectures at home and then discuss them during class, as an example of harnessing online tools to enhance the way students interact with their professors directly. He said he envisions a future of online courses in which presentations adjust to incorporate more auditory and visual elements based on performance tracking tailored to each student’s learning style.

The state of the University’s budget and student financial aid were also central to the evening’s discussion.

Salovey said he is “strongly in favor of the most generous financial aid policies that we can have,” but that he does not think the University can realistically eliminate the summer income contribution required of students on financial aid, which totals between $1,500 to $2,900 per year and could inhibit students from pursuing unpaid summer opportunities. Salovey said he faced financial aid challenges as a student at Stanford, but even with his financial constraints, he found summer activities that “complemented” his education.

Ned Downie ’14 estimated that it would cost the University roughly $8 million to cover summer income contributions, though Salovey said the University is already $50 million short of a balanced budget.

Salovey also said a timeline for updating facilities with handicap accessibility would depend on “committing to a rate of spending over a period of time.”

The topic turned to academics when Salovey emphasized the importance of providing high-quality teaching in introductory courses and offering incentives for good instruction in STEM fields. Currently, he added, the University is focusing on improving STEM classes by increasing individualized student attention, including a commitment to obtaining funding to hire 10 new engineering professors this year.

Students interviewed said they were satisfied with Salovey’s responses.

Sophia Charan ’16 said she thinks that Salovey should advocate for improved technology in classrooms “for the sake of the technology” rather than because it has the “Yale name attached to it.”

The YCC Open Forum event was last held in 2001.

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