In a Yale College Council-sponsored discussion Tuesday evening, students argued the University’s financial aid program could be markedly improved.
The roughly 30 students gathered in Watson Center voiced their concerns about Yale’s current financial aid policy, the student job requirement and the University’s increasing tuition to Financial Aid Director Caesar Storlazzi. While Storlazzi told attendees that Yale has made great efforts to offer an affordable education to all of its students, attendees said the University placed too many burdens on students who receive financial aid. In particular, students said the self-help requirement of their aid package forced them to spend time working for the University rather than on their schoolwork.
“It’s against Yale’s mission to give a student the choice of whether you can have a job, or whether you can spend time in the library,” Cristobal Trujillo ’16 said.
According to Storlazzi, student jobs are beneficial because they connect students to the University through various administrative offices and provide students with extra spending money. There is an inherent value in having a student job, he said, because the student is not only partnering with the University, but contributing something towards their education.
However, he added, the financial aid office is keenly aware that many students are unable to fulfill the student contribution portion of their aid requirements, forcing them to take out loans — something the University hopes to avoid.
“Yale wants to continue its no-loan policy for financial aid students,” Storlazzi said. “We don’t want to be in a position of forcing students to have to borrow.”
Due to Yale’s generous wage rates, Storlazzi said, students only need to work eight to 12 hours a week in order to fulfill their income contribution.
“Eight to 12 hours, from where I sit, doesn’t sound like an onerous amount of work, but I need to hear from students how much this amount impacts them,” Storlazzi said. “From the administrative point of view, it seems to us that this is not a burden.”
However, students present asserted that the time requirement is a burden, since working 12 hours is equivalent to taking two extra classes each week.
Yale often underestimates how much the University asks of its students on financial aid, Avani Mehta ’15 said.
“Yale is an institution that deals with numbers that have a lot of zeroes. We have a $51 million surplus right now,” Mehta said. “To Yale, $3,000 might seem like pocket change, but for students who try to make that much money throughout the semester, it takes a lot of hours to do so.”
Storlazzi was also asked whether Yale could implement a financial aid program similar to the University of Chicago’s No Barriers initiative. Starting in the fall of 2015, the University of Chicago’s initiative will replace loans in all undergraduate financial aid packages with grants and completely finance the education of students who demonstrate the highest amount of need. Additionally, these students will not be required to work student jobs during the academic year, and the program guarantees students a paid internship or research opportunity over the summer
Storlazzi said he had never heard of the No Barriers initiative, although most students in the room were familiar with and supportive of the program.
“If you’re going to require a student to pay ‘x’ amount of money, there should be a system to ensure that they can find positions that will help them meet this goal,” Javaughn Flowers ’17 said. “Implementing this would not only be beneficial to us as students, but beneficial to the University and the Admissions Office.”
Tyler Blackmon ’16 said it was a “huge wake-up call” when he found out the financial aid office had not even considered the new No Barriers program.
“This was an overhaul that really excited a lot of students on campus, and if Yale is going to maintain its competitive edge in college admissions, it should at the very least keep pace with institutions like the University of Chicago, especially now that we are on a more stable financial footing,” Blackmon said in a Tuesday night email. “We should absolutely consider completely eliminating the student income contribution here at Yale.”
YCC President Michael Herbert ’16 said that based on data collected from a recent YCC survey, 61 percent of respondents who were on financial aid indicated that they are using family wealth to meet the costs of the student income contribution, instead of working a student job.
Students present at the town hall meeting said this creates a disparity between different socioeconomic classes at Yale, since students not working jobs have more time to study, as well as more freedom in their schedules for extracurricular activities.
If the University’s position is truly that the student job requirement is inherently valuable in connecting students to their education, everyone should be expected to contribute, Flowers said. He added that this expectation should apply to all students, regardless of whether or not they receive financial aid.
In the 2013–14 year, 52 percent of undergraduates received need-based aid from Yale.