ROSEN: A troubling announcement

Looking Left

On March 12, YaleNews posted an online release announcing a decrease in the financial aid budget for next year. The announcement assured the Yale community that parents of aid recipients would not be expected to contribute any additional funds to their child’s aid packages. Students will be covering the difference by earning $100 more a year at their term-time jobs.

Diana Rosen_Karen Tian

Over a year, $100 may not seem significant. But we need to look into how this announcement was made, and the greater trend it reveals.

It was posted online during spring break, a time when an immediate student response was impossible. There was no student-wide email. YaleNews’ email that day instead reserved space for articles like “The Vikings: Yale historian looks at the myths vs. the history.”

The semester has been filled with discussion of the difficulties faced by low-income, firstgeneration students. Yale even announced a summer bridge program to help students from disadvantaged high school backgrounds transition. But next year’s budget will force those same students to spend more time working, leaving less time to transition to life at Yale.

What’s especially disturbing is the trend we’ve witnessed, as the term-time job contribution has steadily increased over the last five years. In the 2008–’09 school year it was only $2,500. Next year it will be $3,300 ($2,900 for freshmen). Accounting for differences in minimum wage, students in 2008 worked 221 hours for their termtime jobs, but students next year will work 275 hours, (233 for freshmen). If the University wishes to ease the transition for low-income students, they should not be asking them to work 54 hours more than before.

Many students support the idea of working to put money towards one’s education and find it difficult to complain even when the contribution has increased by $800 in five years. The argument is persuasive, to a certain extent. Where it falls short is here: Why does being randomly born into a family with an income of over $200,000 eliminate the expectation that you should work for your education? If working is so important to character development, then why is it only expected of less economically advantaged students?

Unfortunately, the cost ofattending Yale is increasing. Parents of students not on financial aid will have to pay about $2,000 more. But what’s important is the difference between a parental and a student contribution — as the latter directly affects the way that a student is able to take advantage of their Yale experience.

Yale supposedly needs the funds from the contribution. Presidentelect Peter Salovey explained at his forum that Yale faces a $40 million budget deficit. Yet in 2009, Yale faced a $350 million budget deficit. Our current situation appears much better than the one we were in four years ago. There are simply other places where we can save money. Financial aid should be our first priority — especially at a time when a recent New York Times article shows that high-achieving, low-income students often see elite universities as out of their reach.

Yale Tomorrow, a five-year fundraising program that ended in 2011, raised $3.8 billion dollars. Why not institute a more permanent version of this program to raise money specifically for financial aid? A more controversial option is for our University to use a small amount of its endowment — a policy that Yale has stood firmly against for the last several decades. Some economists have argued that endowments as gigantic as Yale’s provide an unnecessarily large financial security blanket.

And of course, the decision lacked student involvement. At Princeton, a committee that includes four undergraduate students advises the president on the institution’s budget. Yale should follow a similar policy. A pattern of decision-making without student input has revealed itself this year, and it needs to end.

Yale provides some of the best financial aid in the entire world, but that doesn’t mean that students should accept an $800 increase in the term-time job expectation over such a short period of time. Where will the increases stop? Harvard and Princeton’s termtime job contributions are $3,000 and $2,900 respectively, and their summer income contributions are only slightly more than half of ours. It does not make sense that Yale cannot provide an equally competitive financial aid package for its students.

We should find a way to ease our budget deficit without increasing the term-time job component for financial aid recipients, and we should include students in making those decisions.

Diana Rosen is a freshman in Pierson College. Contact her at diana.rosen@yale.edu . 

Comments