Recent ramblings on this page about the need for Yale to pursue a Princetonian financial aid policy and “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,” (“Financial aid reforms belie Yale’s potential,” 10/25) demand a response.
News of Princeton’s generous financial aid changes last year sent shock waves through the Ivy League. The termination of our rival school’s student loans coupled with the advent of millions of dollars worth of new grants led many to insist that Yale should dramatically change its policies.
In reaction to this, Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead announced an increase in financial aid benefits and student salaries earlier this year.
The administration’s generous increase in financial aid will, according to the letter from Brodhead, cost the University an estimated $6.34 million per year. Changes included increasing the minimum wage for student jobs as well as decreasing the amount that a student is expected to contribute over four years. Yale should be commended for its support for increased financial aid.
But the University should not listen to those who demand more extreme changes.
The traditional argument for increasing financial aid and eliminating loans is that Yale’s high tuition costs fail to allow those from many social and economic groups to receive a Yale education. Because Yale prides itself on its diversity, it should hand all accepted applicants a free ticket to the University.
Those who advocate the drastic reforms of Princeton look toward Yale’s large endowment; they criticize the Yale Corporation for not opening its coffers and subsidizing the education of others.
While the University’s billions may seem like a tremendous amount of money to students working to pay off loans, such money does not go far in an ever-expanding research university.
As Yale re-evaluates its system, it should not simply look toward Princeton, but should institute a system of merit scholarships.
By offering need-blind admissions, Yale accounts for the disparate financial needs of students. Various socio-economic groups will find their way into the admissions pool and onto the lists of admittees. Yet once these people matriculate, it is not clear that diversity is achieved among those who receive aid. Only those whose applications fit a mathematical formula receive such assistance.
Merit scholarships, given to students on the basis of academic and extracurricular ability — excluding athletic scholarships, which are not permitted under Ivy League regulations — will add an element of competition to this process.
Yale is not right that all people should have the privilege to access. In fact, the selectivity of private universities like Yale produces the student bodies we prize so much. Yet in financial aid, we tend to take a view that contradicts the selective admissions process and asserts the universal right for everyone to attend the College.
A Yale education is not one that students should take for granted. Instead, undergraduates should have to work actively to maintain their grades and extracurricular activities to receive scholarships; ultimately, by creating this competition, more students would be able to benefit from the financial aid that some see as necessary for the school.
Yale cannot thrive on diversity alone, but by attracting students dedicated to the activities and academics of the University. Adding this extra hurdle to the financial aid process will help separate the wheat from the chaff.
Justin Zaremby is a junior in Calhoun College. His columns appear on alternate Tuesdays.