As the number of Yale students eligible for financial aid has risen in recent years, so has the pool of potential athletic recruits.
Yale, like all Ivy League schools, does not award athletic scholarships. But the University’s generous financial aid policies have made Yale more accessible to student athletes from middle-income families. Six Yale coaches interviewed said larger financial aid awards have contributed to an increase in the economic diversity of teams on campus.
“[Yale’s financial aid policies] have broadened the scope of kids we can recruit,” men’s basketball head coach James Jones said. “There was a time when it was more difficult for kids to be able to come to an Ivy League school, [but] now it’s become more affordable for athletes and everybody.”
Jones added that while the policy has widened the pool of potential recruits, he has not noticed a significant change in the athletic abilities of his players.
Ivy League schools often lose top recruits to rival institutions that offer full athletic scholarships because of cost and athletic reputation, said Andrew McNeill, senior associate director of college counseling at the Taft School, a boarding school in Watertown, Conn.
But athletes and nonathletes alike are drawn to “no-loan” and need-based financial aid policies like Yale’s, he said.
According to the coaches interviewed, Yale struggled to recruit students from middle-class backgrounds before Yale’s range of available financial aid awards expanded in recent years.
Most recently, Yale increased its financial aid budget by 10 perent for the 2011-’12 academic year to $117 million, up from $108 million in the previous year. In addition, the University raised the annual income below which parents are not asked to contribute to their child’s education from $60,000 to $65,000.
Three of five athletes interviewed said the University’s financial aid policies factored into their decisions to attend Yale instead of schools that offered them athletic scholarship.
Brian O’Neill ’12, captain of the men’s hockey team, said many of his teammates would not have considered Yale without the possibility of receiving financial aid. He added that his financial aid award enabled him to play for Yale and turn down scholarship offers.
“If your family isn’t extremely rich you can pretty much go here for a great discount, so it’s almost like a scholarship in itself,” O’Neill said. “Getting a full scholarship is really nice at another school, but the financial aid is very generous here, and so that helps with the decision process.”
Meanwhile, Mollie Rogers ’15, an outside hitter on the women’s volleyball team who does not receive financial aid, said her athlete friends at Yale and other Ivies find it “very comforting to know that they will be able to get the money they need to afford college.”
Rudy Meredith, head coach of women’s soccer, said many middle-class students simply did not have the means to pay for a Yale education in the past, but now he expects them to consider attending.
“I think we had a harder time recruiting middle-class kids because most of [them] couldn’t afford [Yale], so they were taking the scholarships to the other schools,” Meredith said. “It’s a big difference in the sense that now we have a chance to recruit those middle-class kids, whereas before we never even had a chance.”
David Talbott, head coach of men’s and women’s squash, said the University’s financial aid policies have allowed more international squash recruits to enroll. Many of these recruits have the option of accepting athletic scholarships from schools in their home countries, Talbott said, but the 12 international players on his current roster all receive “some sort of financial aid package,” he added.
Talbott said the policy has helped Yale cultivate a diverse athletic community.
“I think it’s great to see what Yale’s done,” Talbott said. “It’s key, otherwise you’re really put in a situation where just going back to 40 or 50 years ago when you’re just seeing entitled kids being able to access an Ivy education. That’s why you see such a diverse global campus here.”
Despite these financial aid policies, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeffrey Brenzel said the admissions office continues to address recruited athletes in the same way it has in the past — by weighing the multiple facets of their applications.
“When a Yale head coach supports a recruit in the admissions process, our job is to evaluate to the best of our ability whether the student will be successful academically at Yale and also make a contribution overall to the campus community,” Brenzel said in an email.
Fifty-seven percent of Yale undergraduates received financial aid in the 2010-’11 academic year.