The Yale College Council has taken the first step toward turning its recommendations for financial aid reform into reality.
On Jan. 26, YCC president Michael Herbert ’16, vice president Maia Eliscovich Sigal ’16 and YCC representative Tyler Blackmon ’16 met with Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan and Director of Financial Aid Caesar Storlazzi to discuss the suggestions outlined in the YCC’s January report on financial aid policy. The report — which recommended greater clarity in financial aid award letters and a short-term freeze on the student effort portion of aid — was the focus of a “productive” and “positive” conversation, Quinlan said.
“I think it was a great starting conversation, and we’re already looking to schedule another meeting for next week,” Quinlan said. “I think the authors of the YCC report did a nice job laying out ways that Yale can be more transparent in communicating our financial aid policies.”
Sigal said that during the hour-long meeting, the administrators focused on the first half of the YCC report, which calls for greater clarity of information about financial aid resources at Yale. According to the report, topics of student complaints have ranged from the dearth of information about outside scholarships to confusing terminology in financial aid policies.
Quinlan said Herbert is currently assembling a YCC working group that will collaborate with administrators to improve the accessibility of the University’s financial aid website, along with creating an online database to help students learn more about outside scholarships and evaluating the current composition financial aid award letters.
The goal of the working group, Herbert said, is to put in place some of the YCC’s recommendations, especially clearing up terminology, by the next admissions cycle.
Issues of clarity and presentation are easier to address than the recommendations presented in the second half of the report, Herbert added, as these call for a temporary freeze on the student effort portion of financial aid and its eventual elimination.
“[Quinlan and Storlazzi] seemed very willing to engage with us on clarity issues, but we haven’t yet had discussions about the student contribution levels,” said Blackmon, who is also a staff columnist for the News.
That conversation will take place next week, Herbert said. But he added that while recommendations on clarity may be simpler to implement, they are just as important as more dramatic changes. He added that, in fact, many student complaints about financial aid stem from issues of presentation.
Whether or not the University will freeze or reduce student contribution requirements goes beyond just the financial aid and admissions offices, Herbert said.
“The bigger parts there will work their way up through the administration over time,” he said. “That’s not something that Dean Quinlan or Mr. Storlazzi can just square away. That’s going to involve a lot more people at all levels of the University, [including] the [Yale] Corporation when they come to visit in March or April.”
Five out of seven students interviewed said they think full elimination of the student effort contribution is a reasonable request to make of Yale.
“Yale should eliminate the student job requirement portion of financial aid packages,” Nickolas Brooks ’17 said. “Working a job on campus should not be something that a student is required to do, but instead something that a student can do if he or she wishes. That same time could be spent studying or participating in the various student organizations on campus.”
While she acknowledged the work ahead and the lack of a decisive timeline for change, Eliscovich Sigal said she was pleased with the initial conversation. Both Quinlan and Storlazzi had taken pages of notes on the report, she said, and seemed excited to hear what the YCC had to say.
“It’s great to see them respond to what we wrote and see them so keen to talk to us,” she said.
Over 50 percent of undergraduates received financial aid in the 2014–15 school year.