We both believe that nothing is more important than ensuring that a Yale education is accessible to all students offered admission. In 1964, Yale became the first university of its size and scope to practice fully need-blind admissions and need-based financial aid for all undergraduate students. In the past 50 years, the University’s commitment to remaining accessible to the most talented students from around the world, regardless of family income, has stayed the same.
Thanks largely to the generosity of our alumni, the University is one of a few institutions globally with such a generous commitment. The average Yale scholarship grant for students receiving financial aid was $41,250 during 2013–14, and the median net price — the amount students and families actually pay for their education — for those students was $11,925. Yale’s average grant award is higher than all of the schools in our peer group of Ivy League schools and other leading private research universities. Yale’s average net price is almost $5,000 less than the net price of nearly all of our peers. Yale is a leader in the world of higher education in making an undergraduate education accessible and affordable to students and families.
Based on the detailed financial information a student’s family submits, and using federal criteria and the University’s own need-based policies, Yale develops a financial aid package that enables student and family to meet the full cost of attendance without requiring loans. Yale’s policy of meeting a student’s financial need without requiring loans is not a claim that no students opt to use loans to finance some of their education. However, relatively few Yale students do. Sixteen percent of the Yale College Class of 2014 — including many students not receiving financial aid — chose to take out a loan, with an average cumulative indebtedness of $14,853. By comparison, 69 percent of all students graduating from nonprofit colleges in 2013 had student loan debt, with an average indebtedness of $28,400. Ten years ago, 43 percent of the Yale College Class of 2005 graduated with debt. Although Yale has not taken student loans off the table as an option, they are never a student’s only choice.
A recent survey conducted by the Yale College Council has brought to light several ways that Yale can do a better job in communicating its generous financial aid policies. We welcome these suggestions, and we look forward to working with the YCC on several initiatives including: improving the usability of the financial aid website; creating a virtual “resource room” that aggregates information on outside scholarships; and making financial aid award letters to admitted students and term bills easier to understand.
The YCC report also makes several points about the amount Yale students are asked to contribute to their education. Student effort levels, as well as other aspects of Yale’s financial aid policies, are reviewed annually, and include a comparison with the student effort levels of our peers. For the 2014–15 academic year, Yale’s student effort level is lower than our peers for freshmen but higher for upperclassmen. Yale will look closely at its peers’ student contribution levels this semester as it sets the self-help level and student income contribution for the next academic year and will take into account the various concerns expressed by students in the YCC report.
The YCC survey is a helpful window into students’ perceptions of — and experiences with — Yale financial aid. It is not, however, an accurate reflection of all undergraduate aid awards, or students’ financial choices. For example, 46 percent of those surveyed reported receiving aid and expecting to take out loans by graduation. Yale’s data indicates that significantly fewer students — 24 percent — actually will. The report’s authors write that Yale’s financial aid policies related to student effort “divide Yalies into two classes,” without acknowledging that hundreds of students who do not receive financial aid also work on-campus jobs and earn income in the summer to help cover expenses. With an average hourly wage of $13.32, on-campus employment is an attractive choice for any student.
As administrators, it is important that we understand how students experience Yale’s financial aid policies, and listen to any confusion surrounding students’ financial choices. We recognize that meeting the need of all admitted students does not mean we have alleviated the stress that many students and families face when financing their Yale education. The YCC survey is helpful in describing ways in which Yale could be more transparent and helpful. But it is important that the Yale community know the facts about Yale’s need-based financial aid policies and the significant number of Yale students who graduate without debt. We look forward to continuing this conversation with the YCC and other campus communities.
Jeremiah Quinlan is the Dean of Undergraduate Admissions. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Caesar Storlazzi is the is the Director of Financial Aid. Contact him at email@example.com.