Nearly 100 students gathered in front of Woodbridge Hall on Friday to protest students’ contributions to their own financial aid packages.
The protest, organized by Students Unite Now, called on the University to eliminate a policy that requires undergraduates on financial aid to contribute to their education through savings or income from a summer job. For freshmen, the total student effort contribution stands at $4,475, while for sophomores, juniors and seniors, it is $6,400.
After sharing their stories for half an hour, the protestors split into five groups and delivered a document containing 1,100 student signatures to all the residential college masters and five top Yale administrators.
During the protest, students chanted against “the student contribution,” referring to the combined student income contribution performed over the summer and term-time “self-help” contribution — Yale’s requirement that students on financial aid contribute to their own education. For freshmen, the self-help requirement is $2,850 per year. For sophomores, juniors and seniors, it is $3,350. The student income contribution is $1,625 and $3,050 for freshmen and upperclassmen, respectively.
“I want to see the student income contribution eliminated,” SUN organizer Avani Mehta ’15 said. “I think that’s the only way we can have a Yale where students choose how they learn and how they work.”
The protesters argued that the required contribution creates a division along socioeconomic lines between Yale students who must secure paid employment as part of their financial aid packages, both during the academic year and over the summer, and those who do not have such requirements.
The protest began at 12:30 p.m. on Beinecke Plaza, where several students shared their experiences with managing extracurricular activities and schoolwork while also earning enough money to fulfill Yale’s student income contribution requirement.
Yamile Lozano ’17 said she was not aware of Yale’s student income contribution policy before she applied to Yale. As a first-generation, low-income and minority student, Lozano said she had hoped to advance both herself and her family during her time at Yale, but the contribution prevented her from becoming financially independent in the way she had hoped to.
“I have to give up my time to make up the contribution,” Lozano said. “My talents are being wasted on the contribution.”
Another student, Sarah Swong ’15, spoke about what she described as a lack of economic and cultural diversity in her primary extracurricular, the Yale Symphony Orchestra. Condemning what she called “socioeconomically homogeneous” student organizations, Swong said she would like to see “a Yale that’s not divided by race and class.”
Students who are currently expected to contribute financially as part of their financial aid packages are less likely to join time-consuming extracurricular activities, Javier Cienfuegos ’15 said.
“It’s impossible to balance extracurriculars, work and school,” Cienfuegos said.
Posters containing the signatures were delivered to University President Peter Salovey, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan and Director of Financial Aid Caesar Storlazzi, residential college masters and other top administrators.
According to Jesus Gutierrez ’16, who spoke at the protest, SUN organizers met in January 2015 with several residential college masters to request that they ask the administration to eliminate the student income contribution.
Tyler Blackmon ’16, a Yale College Council representative and columnist for the News, said that if Provost Benjamin Polak “actually walked out and talked to students, he might see that the two-Yale idea actually exists here.”
The protest comes roughly two months after the YCC presented a report to the Yale administration recommending greater clarity in financial aid letters and a short-term freeze on the student income contribution. The YCC report noted an increase in the self-help requirement from $2,600 in the 2009–10 academic year to its current level of $3,350.
“There hasn’t been an articulated justification for why it’s been rising at such a precipitous rate,” YCC President Michael Herbert ’16 said.
Although the figures for student contribution have usually been announced over Spring Break, Herbert said the YCC told the administration that this practice is not transparent. It would be disappointing if the administration released next year’s expected student contribution figures during Spring Break, Herbert said.
None of the University administrators who received the signatures could be reached for comment.
This article has been updated to reflect the version published in print on March 2, 2015.