The Undergraduate Organizing Committee met with President Richard Levin on Thursday for only the second time in five years to present its financial aid platform.
Six members of the UOC met with Levin for 30 minutes to propose improvements to Yale’s financial aid policy, specifically the self-help, parent and summer contributions, as well as heightened transparency in the financial aid allocation process. UOC members said that while they are excited about Levin’s receptiveness to some of the issues raised, they are still seeking a firm commitment to reform. University officials said financial aid is always a priority but is contingent on budget constraints.
UOC members were also present outside the Association of Yale Alumni annual assembly dinner in Commons on Thursday night in an effort to encourage alumni to earmark their donations for financial aid. One of the UOC’s main goals, members said, is to ensure that Yale continues to be a leader in financial aid among higher education institutions, especially in the Ivy League.
Levin said he recognizes the merit of the UOC’s proposals, but that Yale currently considers improving financial aid for its professional school students to be a higher priority. He said more fundraising will be needed before further aid reform is possible, though he remains optimistic.
“If not this year, then in the future, we will have enhancement in financial aid,” Levin said.
Members of the UOC said they appreciated Levin’s professed interest in improving the student self-help contribution of the financial aid package and his openness to making the mechanics of the process more clear. In many arrangements, students receiving aid must work in an on-campus job for a certain number of hours each week.
Naima Coster ’08, who attended the meeting, said there are some students who are currently working up to 20 hours per week, which prompted the UOC to propose that the self-help contribution be cut in half.
“The reason we want to have self-help reform is so [the contribution] can be paid by a term-time job of up to 10 hours per week,” she said. “Ideally, I feel that no student should have to work solely because they are on financial aid.”
The UOC believes that too much time spent at a job can prevent students from taking advantage of all the extracurricular and academic resources Yale has to offer, Coster said.
Elijah Barrett ’09, who was present at the meeting, said the UOC would like Yale to continue to be a leader in financial aid, in part by matching Harvard University’s reform.
Last year, Harvard announced it would eliminate the parental contribution for students from families with annual incomes below $60,000 and reduce the parental contribution for students from families earning between $60,000 and $80,000 a year. Last March, Yale eliminated the parental contribution for students from families earning under $45,000 and reduced it for families earning between $45,000 and $60,000 per year.
Coster said UOC members told Levin that it was not good enough for Yale to be second behind Harvard.
Yale Director of Financial Aid Caesar Storlazzi said he believes Yale’s financial aid program is already one of the strongest in the country, but possible reforms are very much on the administration’s mind.
“I think the argument [the UOC] is using doesn’t stand up in comparison to other schools,” Storlazzi said. “That being said, we are vitally interested in our financial aid program and we constantly look at it to see where we can make improvements.”
UOC members stood outside the AYA dinner to hand out leaflets to alumni. The brochures noted that Yale has fallen behind Harvard in reducing the parent contribution to financial aid, and asked alumni to designate donations specifically for financial aid improvement. Barrett said the students spoke about their Yale experiences positively, but also requested that alumni lobby the administration to improve student experiences by reforming aid.
Mark Dollhopf, executive director of the AYA, said that for many alumni, the experience of coming back to Yale and seeing what undergraduates are involved in is what generally prompts them to give back to Yale.
Barrett said the UOC believes Yale has money available that it is considering allocating to several different areas of University life. It is not budget constraints that are the problem, but deciding how to rank financial aid improvements among other priorities, he said.
“While Yale has done great work in making the University more accessible, it can do even more,” Barrett said.
Levin said he is unable to commit to any financial aid decisions before Yale’s next budget planning cycle later in the year.