During spring break, while most students were busy volunteering, writing theses, vacationing or relaxing, Yale announced a 4 percent increase in cost of attendance for the second year in a row. Last year, the announcement came in the form of a Yale News article. This year, University Spokesman Tom Conroy sent a press release to the Yale Daily News, and the News put an article online immediately. In both instances, the articles went live at a time when few students were likely to be reading Yale publications. Not a single email was sent to the campus or greater Yale community.
The cost of attendance for the 2014-’15 year has been set at $63,250, up $2,350 from the term bill for 2013-’14. Yale’s cost of attendance has been steadily increasing for the past decade — the cost of attendance for the 2007-’08 year was $45,000. The cost of attending Yale College has increased by nearly $20,000 in an eight-year period. This is a problem for students across the socioeconomic spectrum.
Families not receiving financial aid are forced to pay thousands more each year without many tangible changes in the product received. And although the University claims, “the cost of Yale next year for parents of current students receiving financial aid will not increase,” the student portions of the financial aid package have increased once again.
This year’s press release noted that students receiving financial aid would be asked to contribute $50 more to the “self-help” portion of their package next year, a portion typically paid for with a term-time job. Although this $50 increase may seem negligible, it follows a $300 increase in self-help payments over the past two years. During the 2008-2009 year, the self-help contribution was $2,500. Next year, it will be $3,350 for upperclassmen and $2,850 for freshmen. And campus minimum wage has risen by a mere 70 cents since 2008. In an interview with the News, Director of Student Financial Services Caesar Storlazzi said there are no plans to raise the minimum wage in the upcoming year.
Another key piece of information was left out of the press release: The student income contribution, the portion contributed from summer earnings, has also risen once again. Financial aid recipients will be asked to contribute $3,050 this summer, up from $2,400 in 2008. To summarize, upperclassmen on financial aid will be asked to contribute $6,400 towards their education, while their counterparts in 2008 paid $4,900. Yet Yale continues to claim that they meet full demonstrated need, as the family portion of the financial aid package has not changed.
Rising costs of attendance force students to either work longer hours, take out loans or financially squeeze their families. This trend is particularly strange given Yale’s recent attempts to recruit more low-income students and improve their college experience through programs like Freshman Scholars at Yale.
Costs of attendance have been rising steadily at schools across the country. According to the College Board, the average cost of attendance at private, non-profit four-year colleges has increased 14 percent beyond the rate of inflation since 2008. At public four-year institutions, costs have risen by 27 percent.
Rising college costs each year have become the standard in the United States, yet the situation could not be more dramatically different just across our northern border. College students in Quebec went on strike and protested for 100 days straight in 2012 in response to a government plan to raise tuition by $1,625 over five years. The student unions refused to accept the compromise of a seven-year plan, eventually forcing the education minister to resign. That fall, the tuition hikes were eliminated, and it was announced that tuition would be indexed to cost of living.
The proposed rise in Quebec college tuition would have resulted in total costs far lower than American college costs, but those students chose to take to the streets and force their government to back down. Yet, American students have watched costs rise dramatically for years, exhibiting little to no resistance.
It is time for American students, including us at Yale, to take a cue from up north and demand an end to rising college costs. At the very least, the Yale administration owes undergraduates a transparent, well-publicized explanation as to why costs have risen nearly $20,000 in just eight years — not a short press release announcement while campus is empty.
Diana Rosen is a sophomore in Pierson College. Her columns run on alternate Mondays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.