Undergraduate architecture majors will receive an increase in their allowance for studio-related expenses this year, helping alleviate the major’s costs.
The funds for the temporary increase come from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous and will complement the previous $100-per-semester allowance that already existed through the generosity of Michael Barry ’09. Overall, the allowance for juniors and seniors this year will rise to $350 per semester. The money can be used for any studio-related expenses that architecture majors may face, such as reimbursing materials, supplies and 3-D printing costs. The school will also provide up to $400 to sophomores enrolled in the major’s prerequisite course, “The Analytic Model,” this spring. However, the increase is currently expected to last for this academic year only, as the donation was a one-time gift.
“We recognize here at the school that the major is expensive, and we are working to get support to reduce the burden on the students,” School of Architecture Dean Deborah Berke said. “We hope that this additional support will encourage more students to consider the major in architecture.”
The gift represents a larger move toward making the major accessible to everyone at Yale College. A survey of current majors taken last spring showed that 83 percent of junior respondents thought that the allowance of $100 was insufficient, as most respondents said they spent between $300 and $500 each semester.
Still, while the gift will only last for the current academic year, the school is searching for other ways to alleviate the major’s financial burden. Berke said that although she understands the temporary nature of the gift may be discouraging, it is still a step in the right direction.
“We may not be able to continue this level of financial support in subsequent years,” Architecture Director of Undergraduate Studies Bimal Mendis ’98 ARC ’02 said. “However, we are actively considering ways to help students with studio-related expenses, both by continuing to provide funding and also by refining the curriculum and pedagogy of each course where possible.”
Mendis added that the department hopes the gift will not only encourage more people to apply to the major, but also help the department’s current students create their projects through drawings and real-life models, which is important to the creative process.
Both Berke and architecture major Julia Medina ’18 said that the department is continuously seeking new ways of funding to make the major accessible to everyone.
“We want people to feel that they can major in architecture without any limitations, and we’re working toward that,” Berke said.
Undergraduates have received the news enthusiastically, as several have said that the new gift makes a significant difference for their experiences with the program.
“The increase in funding is definitely encouraging for the design process we are asked to do in studio,” architecture major Amra Saric ’17, a former production and design editor for the News, said. “Often we worry about covering the cost of materials or wait until we have a model perfectly figured on the computer to only build one version of it because we’re trying to be frugal with materials. However, this discourages manual design, design by feeling and explorations or accidents that happen along the way, that often gives richness to projects and our design process that they would not have otherwise.”
Saric also mentioned that she knew people who decided against pursuing the major due to the costs associated, so if the increase in allowance continued, she believes it would encourage more people to apply.
Architecture major Cameron Nelson ’18 agreed, saying that if the cost truly discouraged some students from applying, the increase would definitely help. Moreover, he himself was happy to hear the news.
“Though I have managed to keep my finances under control in the past, it has come at the cost of much hoop-jumping, with a corresponding sacrifice of time, effort and quality of work,” Nelson said. “I’m always relieved to learn that I will have to worry about these things even a little less.”
Nelson’s sentiment is shared by other students in the major, too.
Medina said that with the final reviews — in which students present their final projects before a panel of judges that critiques their work — on the horizon, the increase in funding is more than welcome, as it helps students make higher-quality works.
“It opens the doors to making models for this final I otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford,” Medina said. “It will have an impact on the quality of my final work, which will also be in my portfolio.”
Nevertheless, some people feel that a one-time increase is not enough.
Thaddeus Lee ’17, an initiator of the spring survey, said that although this is a good temporary measure, he is unsure about the future.
“The department and [Mendis] in particular were highly supportive of our efforts, and I am glad we have gotten to this intermediate solution on this issue,” Lee said. “I think that making the major more affordable ultimately makes it more accessible to students from different socio-economic backgrounds, … but I’m not sure what the next step is from here.”
The Yale School of Architecture was established in 1916.