I have yet to run across a student who does not have an opinion on the issue of financial aid. No matter the response, everybody cares, and though it is common for students here to have opinions about pretty much everything, the level of interest in this issue is high enough that it begs an explanation.
The reasons for such interest lie beyond the fact that a very large percentage of the population here is on some sort of financial aid; it goes beyond the worry of being able to pay for the cost of an education here. The real reason that the issue of financial aid is so big is that the way the University distributes aid says a lot about the type of institution it is.
Yale can talk a big game, can say that it believes in meeting the full financial needs of the students, that it believes in providing an equal education for all of its students, that it is committed to not discriminating against students based on class culture or creed.
But the question is whether Yale puts its money where its mouth is.
Personally, I know that I would not have been able to come here had my mother not camped out in the financial aid office until they reviewed our case.
While my personal relations with the financial aid department have been infinitely better this year, I cannot help but wonder how many students are at another school because they did not have the chance to appeal their case, for any variety of personal reasons.
How many students sat with the financial aid application by themselves until they simply gave up and applied to a state school? How many have left because they were unable to continue paying for tuition here? How many singers have not sung, dancers not danced, athletes not played, because they needed the time to work not only for spending money but also for tuition?
And given the related socioeconomic and racial situations in our country, how many students of color have not been able to even consider Yale due to a lack of resources? How many children of immigrants have not been able to attend because their parents could not decode the financial aid application?
The opportunities denied to students who were equal to their classmates in every way but financially are numerous, and their denial is an incredible loss, not only for the students who lost them, but also for the classmates who lost out on a teammate, a performance, an artist, a future leader of this country.
And despite this loss, the system continues, not due to a lack of student interest, as students have written numerous articles and passed resolutions on the issue through the Yale College Council, but because those appeals for change have gone unheeded.
I say unheeded, even now, because the reforms that have been passed are so few they are a whisper of a response to the roar of student concern that still echoes from last year. Of the more than 20 resolutions passed by the Yale College Council, the University has announced that it will meet two.
While these two are greatly appreciated, they seem more of a response to what other institutions are doing than to what the students here, the students who make up Yale, have said are important. Ignored is the possibility of eliminating loans; ignored is the request to put a freeze on tuition increases; ignored is the plea that the financial aid process become more accessible.
What adds insult to the injury of debt burden and long work hours is that the University is fully capable of making every single one of these changes. Even with the pay increases, I have friends who hold down three jobs in order to cover costs, simply because the process by which need is evaluated still leaves much to be desired.
The time has come for the University to listen to the concern of its students, the concern of the people who are supposed to leave the University to take leadership positions in society. Let us lead now; let us hold the University to the higher moral standard that it deserves; let us serve the institution by pushing it to meet its full potential.
Julianna Bentes is a sophomore in Silliman College.