Yale President Richard Levin announced substantial changes to Yale’s undergraduate financial aid policy this morning, eliminating the expected parental contribution for families with incomes less than $45,000.

Families with incomes between $45,000 and $60,000 can expect to see the University reduce their required contributions as well, Levin said. The University also announced greater funding for international students to travel home and a larger recruitment effort for low-income students.

“We think we are announcing an important message for low income families in America and throughout the world, that Yale is accessible,” Levin said.

The new financial aid policy will save low-income families approximately $2,500 a year on average, Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said. Though Conroy said he did not know the number of students who will be affected by the change, Pennsylvania State University education professor Donald Heller said his research has found that about 10 percent of Yale students qualify for federal Pell grants — which almost exclusively go to families earning less than $50,000.

For families with incomes between $45,000 and $60,000, reductions in the expected parental contribution will vary, with the greatest relief going to families with the lowest incomes. Families with higher incomes will receive proportionately smaller reductions in the parental contribution, while families in the middle range of this group can expect reductions of the required contribution by about 50 percent.

Yale’s decision follows a move Harvard University made last year to eliminate parental contributions for low-income families. Under Harvard’s policy, families earning under $40,000 do not pay a parent contribution, and families earning between $40,000 and $60,000 pay a reduced parent contribution.

Levin said he did not make up his mind to eliminate the parental contribution until after an open forum on financial aid sponsored by the Yale College Council last week. At the forum last week and at a later sit-in at the admissions office, students protested the University’s previous financial aid policies and called on Levin to sharply reduce both the parental contribution and student self-help portions of aid.

Josh Eidelson ’06, a member of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee and one of the 15 students who was cited for trespassing at the sit-in last week, said this announcement is “great news,” but that the UOC still wants Yale to implement further reforms that reduce the student self-help component of aid.

“I think students made very clear last week that we’re not prepared to settle for only a decrease in the student contribution or the family contribution,” Eidelson said.

Levin said he considered eliminating the student self-help contribution this year as well, but the University’s budget would not allow him to enact both changes simultaneously.

“It’s not possible this year to do both,” Levin said. “This seemed like the better option.”

Levin had previously told the News that Yale officials had studied Harvard’s move and were not strongly considering making a similar change at Yale because the expected contribution for families earning less than $40,000 was already small. In an interview last summer with the Yale Alumni Magazine, he said he thought families “ought to have a stake, however small, in their children’s education.”

Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said he thinks the reduction in parental contributions will alleviate the burden on students at Yale because many of the students working long hours on campus are doing so to help pay off their family’s expected contribution.

“Students have explicitly told us these stories,” Salovey said.

With this new policy, Yale Dean of Admissions Richard Shaw said he expects Yale to see an increase in applicants next year. This year, Yale witnessed a 1.2 percent drop in applications, making it the only Ivy to experience a decrease in applicants.

Richard Kahlenberg, an education expert at the Century Foundation, said he thinks Yale’s change will make it a more compelling option for prospective students and possibly spur other schools to implement similar changes. Kahlenberg said this change is part of a growing trend of universities to pay more attention to issues of economic diversity.

“I think it’s an important development,” Kahlenberg said. “University leaders are always watching what the others are doing, so it could very well be a reaction to what Harvard did, and if that’s true we’re likely to see more university presidents jump into this competition, and that would be a wonderful thing.”

YCC Representative Steven Syverud ’06, who sponsored a resolution on financial aid that the council passed, said he is happy with the announced changes, and he thinks Yale’s financial aid policy is now the best in the nation.

“It is how it should be, we have the best financial aid now for low income applicants,” said Syverud, a former staff reporter for the News. “We’re number one, Harvard’s number two. I think it’s important to step back and reflect on how great that is.”

Levin said the financial aid change is one of a package of financial aid moves that Yale officials have been working to implement over the past several months.

The University also announced this morning an increase in the student budget for international students, allowing them one free trip home each year. The University currently picks up the tab for one trip home over four years for each international student. Yale officials said this morning that they will also intensify student recruitment in low-income areas across the country by initiating direct mail and e-mail campaigns, and encouraging current Yale students to visit high schools in low-income districts when they return home.

“We know we can’t simply be passive,” Salovey said. “I think we do actively have to seek out students from parts of the country and districts that have under representation.”

Currently, Yale students on financial aid cover their tuition with a combination of grants, loans, student term-time work, summer contributions and family contributions.