The movement for financial aid reform found support with the student representatives of the Yale College Council yesterday evening.
Weeks after Princeton University’s groundbreaking announcement that it would eliminate student loans and days after Harvard University announced it would increase its financial aid budget by $8.3 million, the YCC last night passed a set of 15 recommendations on financial aid reform at Yale to present to the administration.
The resolution recommends a replacement of student loans with grants, an increase in summer earnings waivers to four per student, a replacement of the work-study component of self-help with grants and the formation of a committee on financial aid composed of students and administrators with equal representation and decision-making power.
Branford representative Abbey Hudson ’03, who wrote the resolution, said the passage of the resolution was inevitable.
“When the student body gets behind something as much as they got behind this, I expect that their student representatives would pass this,” Hudson said.
YCC representatives voted on the resolution item-by-item, with 15 items passing in all. All proposed recommendations passed with the exception of the fourth section which recommended a tuition freeze for all students that would keep the price of tuition the same for all four years of a student’s undergraduate career.
Some YCC representatives expressed concern that the sweeping nature of the proposed reforms would reduce the credibility and the effectiveness of the resolution itself.
The resolution is partly the result of planning on the part of various student organizations such as El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan at Yale, the Yale College Democrats and the Yale Gospel Choir. The coalition, which formed partly out of a committee devoted to making Martin Luther King Jr. Day an officially recognized University holiday for students, distributed financial aid reform surveys throughout the student body. Nearly 25 of the coalition’s members came to the YCC meeting in support of the resolution.
Throughout the hour-and-a-half-long meeting, members debated the merits of various aspects of financial aid reform, with some arguing the value of work study as part of the financial aid package.
YCC Vice President Leah Zimmerman ’02 said that even though she is on financial aid she sees the value in the work ethic she has developed as a result of her work-study opportunities.
Hudson said financial aid reform must be adopted because a Yale education should be the same for its rich and its poor students.
“A month ago, this resolution would have been sent away as radical, but Princeton has changed all of that,” Hudson said. “We want Yale to see what’s possible and just.”
Ari Holtzblatt ’01, a member of the coalition in support of financial aid reform, said the resolution is just the beginning of the discussion.
Another point of contention was the 12th point on the resolution, which stated the University should form a five-member committee on financial aid with significant student decision-making power and representation.
Many students voiced the concern that Yale’s silence on the issue of financial aid will greatly affect the school’s competition with other Ivy League and competitive universities such as Duke or Stanford.
Laura Kennington ’01, another member of the financial aid coalition, decried Yale’s complacency.
“After the Princeton announcement I was sure the [Yale] Corporation was going to make a recommendation concerning financial aid, and instead they announced a 3.5 percent tuition increase,” Kennington said. “I think it was a slap in the face.”
Melissa McDermott ’04, a member of the financial aid coalition, said she got involved because of the importance of the cause.
“Last year I was deciding between Princeton and Yale, and thinking back it’s frustrating to think about how much money I could have saved,” McDermott said. “I hope Yale tries to take a step forward and changes the policy.”
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