Fifty-two students from the class of 2020 received augmented “start-up” allowances this fall as part of an administrative effort to reform financial aid policy.
Announced with Yale’s new $2 million financial aid initiative last December, the enhanced start-up funds aim to cover expenses for students on financial aid beyond tuition and room and board. Freshmen considered to have the highest need — a category that includes students eligible to receive federal Pell Grants — are each given $2,000, up from $800 for domestic students and $1,000 for international students. A separate group of international students with “high financial need” will continue to receive $1,000 start-up grants.
The need threshold for the start-up funds is lower for international students, meaning there were more $1,000 international grants awarded than $2,000 domestic and Canadian grants.
“There are a lot of additional student needs that go above and beyond the cost of attendance, and we wanted to cover that with the start-up grant,” Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan said.
The grants come with no strings attached. Students have the option to receive the money in two $1,000 installments per semester, or as a $2,000 lump sum. Quinlan said students would likely use the grant for expenses like computers, winter clothes and holiday travels.
Quinlan also explained the office’s reasoning behind the choice for a standard grant size for many students.
“We are piloting [the start-up fund grant],” Quinlan said. “We wanted to see what would work. We estimated what is a good amount of money that we feel would be appropriate for a number of different purchases, and we felt like $2,000 was a fairly good start-up amount.”
Catherine Chang ’20 said that although the start-up funds were well-intentioned, the lack of guidelines for spending the money could potentially be problematic, because students might use the money quickly without fully settling in.
However, Quinlan said his office held a meeting for the recipients in August, which included a financial literacy workshop that presented the students with the type of expenses they might face throughout the year.
Shortly after Yale’s announcement of the financial aid initiative in December, Stanford and Harvard followed suit in offering comparable start-up fund grants, Quinlan said. Both universities now offer a $2,000 grant to first-year students with the highest financial need.
Eugene Lee ’19 said that had she been given the money, she would have spent it on books for her Directed Studies classes.
Quinlan said the Office of Undergraduate Admissions has followed up with recipients of the grant, adding that the office is also checking the reimbursement data to see how students choose to spend the money.
“We are looking at how students have access to these funds,” Quinlan said. “We are trying to solicit student feedback.”
The $2 million financial aid initiative also provides a $600 allowance for upperclassmen with the highest financial need and a $1,500 annual vacation allowance for international students on financial aid.