Students from various professional schools met with Yale President Richard Levin Wednesday to discuss their concerns with current financial aid programs for students in some of the University’s professional schools.

The students said they believe Yale has underfunded financial aid programs for students in most of the professional schools, decreasing socioeconomic diversity in their respective student bodies. They also said they are concerned that University students who are trained in fields such as art, music, and environmental studies would often prefer to be self-employed or work for nonprofit corporations after they receive their degrees, but instead are forced to choose higher-paying careers to pay off student loans.

Students focused on convincing Levin that loan forgiveness is a viable solution to student debt, especially for those who work in the public sector or in the arts after graduation.

Dani Simons FES ’04, who attended yesterday’s meeting, said she thinks alumni of the University’s professional schools should be able to do the work they are “trained and called to do.” She said sending professional students into the workforce to do their intended work without heavy financial burdens will benefit society as a whole. Simons praised Yale’s undergraduate financial aid programs and said the University should not shift undergraduate grants to the professional schools, but continue to build its endowment and experiment with new grant programs.

Brynn Taylor EPH ’04 FES ’04 said the University’s decisions regarding financial aid programs directly affects her future. She said Yale must not forget its mission to educate the high-caliber students it attracts.

“I would love to walk out of here in May and get a nonprofit [job], but none of them would support my loan payments,” Taylor said.

At the meeting, students discussed various proposals with Levin. He expressed an interest in providing low-interest loans in the short term and better endowment for professional schools in the long term. While he said he does not favor loan forgiveness, students at the meeting said they will continue to pursue the idea.

Levin was unavailable for further comment Thursday night.

Keith Bissons ’04 said he thinks the University should look to the success of competitive grant programs at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and Graduate School of Education because they address the needs of students with families, women, minorities, and others who may be especially impacted by financial aid programs.

“I can count the number of American minority students in the School of Forestry on one or two hands,” Bissons said. “We need to find a program so that we don’t lose the students who can’t pull it financially.”

Professional students who attended Wednesday’s meeting said they were relieved Levin attended the meeting — an indication, they said, of the administration’s devotion to paying more attention to financing education in the professional schools.

“The greatest frustration from concerned professional students is that we haven’t had any communication at all with the administration,” said Judd Greenstein MUS ’04, who attended the meeting. “We had never even known where they stood on financial aid in the first place.”

But Jennifer Seaich DIV ’04 said she thinks Wednesday’s meeting was only the beginning of a long process of negotiation.

“We are hopeful from yesterday’s meeting but confident that it will take continued pushing on the students’ part to implement an appropriate plan,” Seaich said.

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