Yale President Richard Levin has joined a group of 27 presidents from top colleges in a pact to universalize financial aid guidelines, the 568 Presidents’ Working Group will announce today.
The group, led by Cornell University President Hunter R. Rawlings III, will announce standardized guidelines for determining which students are eligible for financial aid. The guidelines will be more generous to middle-class families than the College Board guidelines that most colleges have subscribed to for years. Yale’s involvement in the announcement makes it a visible leader in the fight to preserve need-blind admissions, but does not bar it from continuing to advance its own financial aid policies.
“This is a much broader philosophical change across higher education,” Yale’s Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Richard Shaw said. “It is not a reflection of Yale’s consideration.”
Shaw said he had not yet seen the exact guidelines of the agreement, but that he knew the general parameters of the discussion surrounding the pact.
Ever since Princeton University, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Dartmouth College announced financial aid reforms to lower student debt, Yale administrators have said that Yale will make a change soon as well. Yale is evaluating its aid policies and will likely announce a change in the fall.
After the justice department accused Ivy League schools and MIT of financial-aid-package fixing a decade ago, the government allowed schools to continue discussing general aid principles but not individual aid packages, under section 568 of Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994.
The guidelines to be announced Friday are the culmination of two years of meetings of the 568 Presidents’ Working Group which has been concerned about — in the words of Rawlings — the “serious erosion in need-blind decision making.”
There are an increasing number of schools that give merit-based aid in higher education today, as more schools are offering aid to the most desirable students instead of the neediest. Yale and the other schools in this pact, such as Cornell and Columbia, remain committed to need-based aid — or awarding aid on the basis of financial needs.
According to The New York Times, the new agreement’s guidelines include provisions for higher living expenses in cities such as New York City, a decreased expectation to be taken from families’ college savings accounts, a limited consideration of home equity, more careful consideration of divorced parents and stepparents’ incomes and provisions for parents who are not beneficiaries of retirement programs.
Harvard and Princeton did not sign on to the new guidelines. The New York Times reported that Harvard and Princeton aid officials said the guidelines would have reduced the amount of aid they currently give students.
Yale students have rallied for financial aid reforms similar to Harvard and Princeton’s changes this past winter. It remains to be seen if Yale will invest similar amounts of additional funds in financial aid as Harvard and Princeton did, as well as how Yale will do it while abiding by these new guidelines.
Several of the guidelines, however, are not new for Yale, a school that is more liberal in its aid than many of the other colleges that signed the guidelines. Yale diverged from the College Board’s methodology in 1998 when it added an across-the-board protection of $150,000 of families’ assets, a change benefiting middle-class and upper middle-class families.