The Yale Corporation emerged from its weekend meeting with a smattering of small-scale but important announcements about undergraduate housing, tuition and the open airing of Yale’s investment guidelines but characteristically little news on the burning question of the day: How Yale will answer Princeton’s radical financial aid reform. In his debriefing Wednesday, Yale President Richard Levin said Yale would put off until next year the decision to join Princeton in eliminating loans in undergraduate financial aid packages. Levin appeared to favor pontification over proaction, arguing that matching Princeton’s plan would force Yale to abandon the “significant notion that students should co-invest in their education.”
The Corporation’s decision not to decide is an unsettling signal Yale will move slowly to react to one of the most important financial aid reforms in the last decade. The wait-and-see strategy is problematic for two reasons. First, changing the policy to reach deeper into the applicant pool is simply the right thing to do. Under Yale’s current policy, some students shoulder more than $17,000 of crippling post-graduate debt. That debt, in turn, affects the financial freedom students have to use their Yale education immediately after leaving New Haven. Second, the delay in somehow matching Princeton puts Yale at a distinct competitive disadvantage during the admissions process. For the students accepted to both schools, choosing Yale could potentially cost them thousands more in postgraduate debt. Unless Corporation members can find an alternative that reaches as broadly and boldly into the applicant pool, we urge them to adopt the Princeton plan for Yale next year.
One of the Corporation’s few substantial announcements was the 3.5 percent increase of the term bill. While this increase is slightly higher than past years — there had been a three-year streak of 2.9 percent increases — this announcement is in line with comparable universities and reasonable in light of higher expected inflation. Tuition may have increased, but Yale officials did decide to freeze the self-help portion of financial aid for a second consecutive year, a welcome but somewhat underwhelming development when compared to Princeton’s bold initiative.
On the accountability front, the Corporation wisely chose to publish the annual statement of the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility online, offering students and prospective applicants a window into Yale’s social conscience and its written standards for investing the University’s $10 billion endowment.
But if administrative transparency and accountability was the theme of the Corporation meeting, its spokesman tumbled short of the goal. After the meeting, Levin again stonewalled against inquiries into the University Tribunal’s handling of the nine-month-old Antonio Lasaga tenure termination process. Levin tells the News the tribunal is “nearing closure.” But whether or not he is hamstrung by the former Saybrook master’s decision to keep the tribunal’s proceedings confidential, Levin’s refusal to offer a basic timetable for a final decision and his unwillingness to divulge how or when the anonymous five-member faculty committee convenes undermines the tribunal’s credibility and the University’s reputation.