A week after the Harvard School of Public Health received a $350 million donation, the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) is still struggling to retain applicants who are being offered better financial aid packages from other schools.
According to the School’s internal Goals and Priorities 2014-’15 report, one of the School’s top priorities will be increasing student yield by improving financial aid offerings. With YSPH’s centennial approaching in 2015, administrators are hoping to lead a major fundraising effort, bringing in money to ensure that every qualified applicant who wants to attend the School is able to matriculate.
“The level of scholarship support at YSPH is much lower than for Yale college,” YSPH Dean Paul Cleary wrote in a Tuesday email. “We would like to….make it easier for the most talented students in the country to study public health at Yale. “
According to Cleary, YSPH is not losing students because its peer institutions are significantly more selective. On the contrary, YSPH’s acceptance rate was the sixth lowest of all public health schools in the country last year. But, to the dismay of YSPH administrators, their yield rate is also low. It all comes down to money, Cleary said.
Most public health schools struggle to offer applicants enough financial support, YSPH Director of Admissions Mary Keefe said. Unlike graduates of law school, business school, or medical school graduates, it is less likely that that YSPH’s graduates will be entering lucrative professions and lavishing the school with funds, she added.
At schools of public health across the nation, students’ financial need is so urgent that the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health, an organization that represents accredited public health programs across the country, recently added a section on its website called “Financing Your Degree.” Keefe noted that Yale, as well as its peers, are now working to educate their applicants about how to best finance their own studies.
But relative to its competitors, Yale especially is struggling. According to Cleary, Yale loses a significant number of its accepted applicants to Harvard, Columbia, Berkeley and Johns Hopkins each year.
Currently, YSPH is completely need-blind — whether an applicant is accepted does not in any way hinge on his or her financial need, Director of the YSPH Financial Aid Office Andre Massiah said. In contrast to the School of Medicine, YSPH offers merit scholarships. The School began offering full rides last year, Massiah said, but is still only able to offer full rides to, at the most, three students a year.
In 2010, four years after Cleary took the helm, the School’s yield rate sat at 24 percent. Ten years later, that rate has jumped 50 percent — it now rests at 36 percent, still significantly lower than administrators want it to be.
If YSPH wants to improve its financial aid offerings, it will have to do it all itself, Cleary said. Since donations to the University are normally directed towards a particular school, bolstering financial aid will require targeted fundraising, Cleary said.
“[T]he university tries to meet the interest of the donors,” Cleary said. “[I]f someone wants to support the School of Music, then Peter [Salovey] says, ‘Oh, we’d be delighted.’”
YSPH’s share of the University’s endowment has historically hovered around 9 percent. Still, depending on endowment growth alone will not allow YSPH to become a competitor. The School is about to embark on a huge fundraising mission for its 100th anniversary, using the opportunity to capitalize on the school’s history and its future direction, Keefe said.
“The major focus of the centennial will be to develop support for public health leaders of the future, make people aware of the history of the School, the contributions it’s made, how well we’re doing nationally and internationally and our vision for the next hundred years,” Cleary said.
Perhaps, Keefe joked, their 100th anniversary will mean their own hundreds of millions of dollars donation.
Referring to the School’s Associate Dean for Development and External Affairs, Keefe joked, “I know Marty Klein is probably trying to find a similar benefactor.”
There are currently 221 students enrolled in the Yale School of Public Health.