They shared stories of summers spent as maids and winters spent on campus, of parents living paycheck to paycheck, of working long hours during the school year at the expense of grades and extracurricular activities.
More than 50 students protested the University’s decision to increase the amount students on financial aid must contribute toward their tuition by 15 percent to $3,000, at a forum Wednesday night held by the Undergraduate Organizing Committee. The UOC plans to deliver a petition, which now has more than 200 signatures online, to administrators next Friday, calling for the University to reverse the increase, reinstate a policy abolished a decade ago that gave hiring preference to students on aid for the first two weeks of school, and make a more concerted effort to inform students of changes in financial aid policy.
At the meeting, students and members of the UOC said they are worried the change will exacerbate the socioeconomic divide between students who work and those who do not. But University President Richard Levin said Tuesday that given the University’s present financial situation, he does not anticipate any changes to financial aid in the next few years.
The new policy is expected to raise an additional $1.1 million in revenue and is part of the University’s efforts to close its the $100 million budget gap.
While Levin said no changes will be made to the financial policy for next year, he added that the University will consider the UOC’s concerns in long-term policy plans. Still, Levin said, current financial aid packages are “unprecedented” in their level of generosity.
“We, the UOC, see it unfair for the University to place the greatest financial burden on students who are feeling the brunt of the current crisis the most and are least able to afford the increase,” said Mac Herring ’12, a UOC member.
Erin Johnson ’09, a Woodbridge Fellow who works for the Office of the President and the Office of the Secretary, observed the meeting as a representative of the President’s Office but did not speak at the event.
Herring said the UOC contacted administrators on short-notice and was not offended that they could not attend the meeting.
Yale College Council Vice President Abigail Cheung ’11 said she met last week with Caesar Storlazzi, director of student financial services, to discuss concerns about the impact of recent financial aid policy changes, but no concrete results came out of the meeting.
Jeff Gordon ’12, YCC president-elect, said the YCC plans to work with the UOC in their efforts to reverse the University’s decision to increase the expected student term contribution. Gordon added that at the very least, he hopes to prevent any further increases made to the student contribution to keep up with inflation.
Herring spoke about her own struggles to find employment on campus this year. After applying for a dozen jobs, Herring said, she was finally able to secure employment last month. She added that the stress of finding employment and juggling academic and extracurricular commitments has left her feeling “resentful” at times toward friends who do not have to work.
Another student, who wished to remain anonymous, said he had to wait for his tax refund to arrive before he could afford to buy a cake to celebrate his roommate’s birthday. He said he often feels ashamed and stigmatized by his financial situation and is frustrated that class issues remain a taboo topic on campus.
A third student, who also wished to remain anonymous, said she had spent the past two summers scrubbing bathrooms as a hotel maid. This summer, she said, she has received a grant that will cover her expected summer contribution. But with her mother set to lose her job in a few months’ time, she said, meeting the $400 increase in the expected term-time contribution will be difficult.
Ward 1 Alderman Mike Jones ’11, who also receives financial aid, attended the meeting as well. He said he did not buy his course packets this semester due to financial constraints and has skipped traveling during vacations because of the associated costs.
“It would be nice hear a student voice,” Jones said. “The University needs to take students into account when making their decision.”
Students will likely have to work just over one additional hour a week to meet the increased expected student contribution, Storlazzi said.