The Yale administration’s stance toward Princeton and Harvard’s recent changes in their financial aid policy remains disappointing. The University needs to look at whether it really can afford to hold out on implementing changes. In the tumultuous climate that is college admissions, Yale’s inaction could be tremendously detrimental to its reputation and selectivity. A Yale official has claimed it would be “ridiculous” to respond to Princeton’s changes because the number of financially needy students Yale fights against Princeton for is only about 50.
But Yale needs to recognize several important facts. One of them is that the University is already lagging behind Princeton — let us not even mention Harvard — in selectivity. Its admissions rate is almost four points higher than Princeton’s, its yield rate about four points lower. With such statistics readily accessible, it would be foolish to think high school seniors would not notice such differences. Combined with the blockbuster financial aid package, those 50 students — who also happen to be the students Yale would want most, considering they got into both schools — will face an easier choice than predecessors in their position did last year. Ultimately, all else being equal, who would deliberately ignore the chance to save about $10,000?
More important is the fact that the landscape of college admissions is nothing like the one seen decades ago. Yale’s competition today includes not only the other two members of the H-Y-P triumvirate but also schools such as Stanford, Duke and MIT, not to mention all the other Ivies. In particular, Stanford may have already overtaken Yale in its appeal to rising freshmen: In sheer number of applications, admissions rate and yield percentage, Stanford has surpassed Yale, and with 16,000 regular decision applicants vying for spots in Stanford’s class of 2005, Yale seems to be trailing from a purely statistical point of view.
Yale should be commended for many of its recent successes and endeavors. Its bold investment into bolstering the science, medical and engineering programs with a $1 billion initiative is especially laudable. Its undergraduate admissions office’s success in garnering a record 14,500 applications this year represents an effort that must not be overlooked. And its recent changes in financial aid policy will make Yale more accessible to those in the lower income brackets and to international students.
But while other schools attract students with tantalizing offers of zero debt after graduation, merit-based scholarships and other incentives, can Yale really afford to rest on its laurels? Yale administrators say they prefer Harvard’s system, but will such a half-baked measure suffice? It may be too late to implement changes immediately, but the Yale administration’s determinedness in remaining unmoved by the drastic changes on the very turf that this 300-year-old institution wages its battles on is, to say the least, frustrating.
There are many reasons why a student would choose Yale over another college — from quality of instruction to social life — but one also hopes the school they devote four years of their life to will be as prestigious tomorrow as it is today. For that reason and many more, Yale should strike as soon as possible by adopting a plan similar to Princeton’s because the sooner Yale implements measures to gain ground over its competitors, the larger will its glory be in the coming decades.
Tak Nishikawa is a freshman in Silliman College.