Concerns over the University’s financial aid system sparked discussion at a panel forum where representatives from Yale Student Financial and Administrative Services fielded questions from students gathered at the Dwight Hall Library on Wednesday.

Organized by the Undergraduate Organizing Committee, the forum was part of an effort to start a campus-wide dialogue on financial aid and financial diversity, UOC member and forum moderator Jared Malsin ’07 said. One major concern raised was about attracting a diverse student body from different socioeconomic backgrounds. The forum also addressed common concerns — generated by a two-week canvass of 300 financial aid students by the UOC — including the lack of campus knowledge about the financial aid process and the fairness of the amount a family contributes to its child’s education, Malsin said.

“We think Yale can do better to accommodate people with financial needs,” Maslin said. “There are issues of class that exist, and we want to figure out ways to approach that and what potential policy solutions could be.”

The University’s representatives acknowledged the broad complexity of student concerns, and Associate Vice President for Student Financial and Administrative Services Ernst Huff said a newly resurrected Yale committee, the Subcommittee on Admissions and Financial Aid, will create an arena for further discussion.

University Director of Financial Aid Myra Smith said a reason for the lack of public discussion of financial aid is the private nature of personal finances.

“For a lot of people, financial aid is a private thing,” Smith said. “We have to respect that. You start to deal with stereotyping when you try to ID people on financial aid. We have to get past the negative connotations of being on financial aid.”

Yale’s financial aid policy is need-blind — students are admitted regardless of their ability to pay. The University’s policy is also full-need — 100 percent of a student’s demonstrated need is met, Yale’s representatives said. But students at the forum complained that students from lower socioeconomic classes at Yale are under-represented.

While noting that diversity on campus is an admissions issue, Smith said her office’s particular concern is to fund students who have already been accepted and need financial assistance.

Rebecca Livengood ’07 questioned the financial aid representatives about their office’s efforts to attract a more diverse applicant pool. Livengood cited the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative. Under the initiative, Harvard no longer requires families with incomes of less than $40,000 to contribute to their children’s tuition costs.

But Smith said that it is difficult to measure the realistic effects of Harvard’s policy.

“It was a smart move, but we don’t know how effective it is in terms of attracting students and university costs,” Smith said.

Huff said the University may consider enacting a similar policy in the future, but they would first need to do a cost-benefit analysis.

According to Harvard’s Web site, about 70 percent of Harvard students receive some sort of financial aid. About 40 percent of Yale students receive financial aid, according to the Yale Admissions Web site.

While Livengood said she disagreed with some of the University representatives’ responses, she thought overall the forum was informative.

“I was excited that they were really receptive,” Livengood said. “They listened well and answered questions as well as they could.”

Yale’s representatives encouraged anyone with individual questions about financial aid to talk to a counselor from their office.

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