Roughly 150 students swarmed Beinecke Plaza Friday afternoon for a rally demanding the elimination of the student effort and calling on University President Peter Salovey to support the cause.
The rally, hosted by campus activist group Students Unite Now, renewed the call for the Office of Financial Aid to remove both the summer and term-time student contributions, which together come to $5,950 for most undergraduates on financial aid. The protesters argued that the expectation for students on financial aid to contribute funds earned from working a term-time and summer job prevents them from fully engaging in extracurricular and academic life at Yale.
During the rally, students shared their experiences as low-income students at a university that, Max Greene ’19 said, is divided along the lines of race, class and other identifiers. Green pointed to the student effort as a force that intensifies those lines.
“For Yale to take students, many of whom are wondering if they belong here or not based on their background, and to tell them, ‘well, you have to work to, in essence, prove that you belong here,’ it just seems to exacerbate the divisions that already exist among the student body,” Greene said at the event.
At the end of the rally, attendees stood in a single file line and individually submitted written requests to a Woodbridge Hall administrator. The rally was also an attempt to persuade Salovey to meet with SUN leaders, according to SUN member Isadora Milanez ’18.
The event was co-sponsored by several other on-campus groups, including the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Cooperative at Yale, Trans@Yale and Fossil Free Yale.
Outside Woodbridge Hall, students also criticized the Yale Corporation, claiming the governing body is oblivious to students’ everyday struggles.
“With $26 billion in reserve, the Corporation cannot in good faith tell us that eliminating the [student effort] will trade off with other services on campus,” said Travis Deshong ’19, a member of the Yale Students for Prison Divestment. “This is not simply an economic issue. This is a human issue, and we must address it as such.”
Student speakers argued that the student effort inhibits personal growth, as students are forced to dedicate hours to employment rather than academics or extracurricular activities.
David Diaz ’18, a self-identified low-income student on full financial aid, said he felt the University had not been clear in explaining to prospective students how the student effort impacts life at Yale. Diaz’s parents and grandparents help fund the cost of his student effort so that he does not have to bear the full financial burden.
“The [student effort], to me, ignores the idea that we are not separate from our families,” Diaz said. “We, as students, particularly students of color and low income students, are always thinking about how our decisions affect our families.”
Julia Salseda ’19, who participated in the Directed Studies program her freshman year, added that many students who are forced to must work campus jobs do not have the time to enroll in intensive programs like Directed Studies. As the only Hispanic woman in all her DS seminars, Salseda felt isolated from the DS community, which spurred her to advocate for the student effort’s elimination to ensure that “all communities on campus are open to students.”
And while SUN has demanded the full elimination of the student effort, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan and University Director of Financial Aid Caesar Storlazzi said the student effort remains an important and necessary part of a Yale College scholarship.
Storlazzi explained that Yale College’s financial aid program, like those of almost every other school in the country that offers a need-based program, is based on the principle that paying for college should be “a partnership between the student and his or her family and the college.”
However, Quinlan and Storlazzi were also candid about the economic reasoning behind this principle: According to Quinlan, endowment income supported just over the half of the institutional scholarships given to undergraduates last year. While they said many may see the endowment as a near-unlimited amount of money due to its size, Quinlan and Storlazzi also emphasized that the endowment is made up of hundreds of smaller funds, many with unbreakable indentures.
“In order to sustain aid while meeting the other critical needs of the University, Yale needs to ask the contribution of undergraduates and families — contributions that leave a vast majority of students without debt when they graduate,” Storlazzi said. “Although this may require some work during school and the taking of some moderate loans, the outcomes are extraordinary in the national context — especially when we consider the trajectory of Yale graduates.”
Moreover, Quinlan said that the effects of fully eliminating the student effort could be harmful for the University.
“[Eliminating the student effort] would compromise other aspects of the institution or would require Yale perhaps to retreat from a need-blind admissions policy, an inconceivable concept, to admit fewer undergraduates, international or domestic, on aid, or reconsider the generous way parental contributions are currently calculated,” Quinlan said.
The estimated cost of attending Yale in 2016–17 was $68,230.