A series of Yale College Council meetings held last week to discuss financial aid with administrators proved promising, YCC members said, as the administration showed willingness to make major structural changes in the University’s financial aid policies in accordance with YCC recommendations.
Since January, when the council passed a financial aid resolution, YCC members have been meeting with members of the administration, including Yale College Dean Peter Salovey, Director of Student Financial Services Myra Smith, Dean of Admissions Richard Shaw and Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg, YCC member Steven Syverud ’06 said. Though none of the YCC recommendations has been definitively adopted by the University, Syverud said he is optimistic.
Salovey said the administration has not made any decisions yet, but has not ruled anything out either.
“All options are on the table,” he said.
The original resolution, authored by Syverud, recommends that the University decrease the family contribution component, increase gift aid and allow students to waive their summer contributions at least once during their time at Yale. It also asks for the reinstatement of a financial aid panel during freshman orientation, the establishment of special training for freshman counselors on financial aid issues and the creation of work-study positions that would allow students on financial aid to serve as peer advisors to incoming aid recipients.
Last week, Salovey attended a YCC meeting specifically to discuss the proposal’s recommendations.
During the meeting, when Salovey requested that the YCC members prioritize the components of the financial aid resolution, they selected the reduction of the family contribution and student self-help components as the most important.
“It’s not that productive to split them up,” Syverud said. “If only the student self-help component was reduced, the result would be that students would still be working on the side to help support their families.”
A close second was the YCC’s request for a summer waiver program, Syverud said. He said the YCC is optimistic about the proposal’s likelihood of acceptance in light of the University’s announcement of its new International Summer Award Program two weeks ago. The ISA Program promises that the University will waive the summer-earnings contribution of students on financial aid and provide them with grants to fully cover their living expenses so they may pursue study and internship programs abroad.
“We’re really excited about that and we hope it’s a first step,” Syverud said.
In addition to the meeting with Salovey, YCC members have also been meeting with University officials individually.
“We’re just trying to bring to the attention of the administrators the concerns of the students,” said Marissa Brittenham ’07, who met with Smith and Shaw. “We’re meeting with administrators to persuade them that the suggestions we come up with are the best method, and also to see what their feedback is as well.”
Brittenham said she has gotten “really great responses” from the administrators.
In a meeting with Shaw, both Brittenham and Syverud discussed the implementation of recruitment programs to target high-achieving low-income students. The plan Syverud said he has in mind, dubbed the “Ambassadors Program,” would send current undergraduates to speak at schools near their homes during breaks. Target schools would be those comprised of students with low incomes and high SAT scores. Syverud said Shaw seemed genuinely committed to improving the University’s recruitment tactics.
Syverud is a former staff reporter for the News who covered financial aid.
Syverud also met with Trachtenberg to discuss the possibility of reinstituting a financial aid panel for freshmen during the opening days of school, as well as adding a page about financial aid procedures to the handbook given to freshman counselors.
Trachtenberg said she thinks the idea is a good one, but emphasized that nothing so far is “set in stone.”
“I haven’t started planning for next year yet,” Trachtenberg said.
But if the administration plans to implement any other suggestions from the YCC proposal, it will need to make decisions soon in order to include any new financial aid measures in next year’s budget, Brittenham said.
“They are coming up with the budget by the end of February,” she said. “We want to get their ear before they make any important decisions.”