At a Yale College Council-sponsored forum on financial aid last month, Director of Financial Aid Caesar Storlazzi admitted to having never heard of a dramatic expansion of financial aid at the University of Chicago, a move that many students have called on Yale to emulate.
But regardless of Storlazzi’s knowledge of UChicago’s No Barriers Initiative — which will replace loans in undergraduate financial aid packages with grants, completely financing the education of students who demonstrate the highest amount of need — the program has raised questions about whether Yale could, or should, take steps to become more affordable.
In particular, students have focused in on the self-help requirement of financial aid, which stands at $2,850 for freshmen, and $3,350 for sophomores, juniors and seniors. Seven students interviewed said the job requirement is a burden on their college experience and that they would like to see it lifted.
“The requirement gives students who have to work an ultimatum by forcing them to either work or take out a loan, both of which have negative educational and social implications,” Nickolas Brooks ’17 said.
Students at the YCC forum called for a version of the UChicago program to be implemented at Yale, and many have noted that a comparison of the schools’ finances make Yale’s ability to do so abundantly clear. UChicago has an endowment of $7.47 billion, in comparison to Yale’s endowment of $23.9 billion. Both schools have similar undergraduate populations.
UChicago sophomore Charissa Newkirk said that the program reinforces the notion that the UChicago administration is “looking out for what’s best for everyone, no matter what background.”
Ronald Ehrenberg, director of Cornell’s Higher Education Research Institute, said that while Yale is certainly capable of eliminating the student job requirement, it is unlikely that the University will do so.
“Of course Yale could afford to do this if they wanted to,” Ehrenberg said. “But the question is, why should they want to do it?”
He added that unless Yale administrators believe removing this requirement will attract more applicants — particularly ones from low-income brackets — they most likely will not make changes to the University’s financial aid policy, since it is already more generous than policies at other elite institutions.
However, Harvard graduate and political activist Ron Unz said that schools such as Yale and Harvard should consider eliminating tuition altogether if they wish to recruit more diverse applicants. Although tuition is essentially already waived for lower class and middle class applicants, Unz said, many people do not realize this, and continue to think that Ivy League schools are out of their price range.
“If the Ivies simply eliminated tuition, which they easily could do, it would be a trivial financial loss that would dramatically encourage a much larger number of students to apply from a wide variety of different backgrounds,” he said.
Storlazzi said that changes to financial aid are not solely decided on by him, but in conjunction with relevant administrators, and are reviewed in light of all University priorities. He added that the financial aid office is currently considering the ideas that were brought up at last month’s financial aid town hall. The policy on student contribution is an item his office will be focusing on, he added.
Storlazzi said he plans to speak to UChicago’s aid director to find out more about the No Barriers program and the details of their financial aid packages. He added that Yale’s financial aid policy is already “no loan” and “debt free,” which is how the No Barriers initiative is described on the UChicago website.
However, the website specifies that in addition to replacing student loans, No Barriers guarantees a paid summer internship or research opportunity to students who demonstrate the highest amount of need, and does not require students to work a term-time job.
While Brooks and other students said these components of No Barriers absolutely need to be implemented by the University, others defended the student contribution, noting that they enjoyed their jobs on campus.
“I’m glad that I have jobs on campus, and I don’t think I would have been motivated to get them unless the student contribution existed,” said Emma Goldrick ’17, who works in the Peabody Museum and the Silliman Dining Hall. “However, the amount of money I’m making from my jobs won’t altogether be enough to pay off the student contribution. So I think [the contribution] has value in existing, but the amount of work needed to actually pay the full amount is very high while still being a student.”
Jessica Labbe, deputy director for finance administration at the Yale University Art Gallery, said student employees are essential to the YUAG, which employs approximately 150 students in a given year. She said that regardless of potential policy changes, or of whether or not the students they employ are on financial aid, the gallery is committed to maintaining the current level of student employment.
According to the Yale Factsheet, 54 percent of Yale undergraduates received financial aid last year .
Correction: Dec. 5
A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the self-help requirement of financial aid as the student-effort requirement. In fact, the student-effort requirement is the self-help requirement plus the student income contribution.