Just 18 months after Yale delivered a series of commitments to the White House, pledging to increase college accessibility for low-income, high-achieving students, the University has announced that it has met or exceeded its goals for all nine commitments.
In January 2014, University President Peter Salovey collaborated with other higher education leaders at President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s College Opportunity Day of Action. At the summit, officials from universities across the nation discussed various ways to increase college opportunity and issued public commitments to make their institutions more affordable for all qualified students. Yale’s commitments included increasing the number of QuestBridge finalists matriculating into Yale College, providing extra support for low-income and first-generation college students through special summer programming, and sending targeted mailings to 20,000 high-achieving, low-income students to raise awareness about Yale’s need-based financial aid policy.
“I’m proud of the progress we’ve been able to make in all of these areas and the hard work that has gone into them by colleagues around the University,” Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan said. “It really shows that Yale has made a concerted effort to increase the diversity of its student body.”
In 2014, the University pledged to increase the number of QuestBridge finalists in the freshman class from roughly 50 or 60 to about 75 students for the classes of 2018 and 2019. QuestBridge is a national organization that connects high-achieving, low-income students to colleges, scholarship providers, enrichment programs and other resources. Eighty students in the class of 2018 are QuestBridge finalists, and 88 have enrolled in the class of 2019, Quinlan said.
He added that one of the most notable successes is the increase in incoming freshmen who are eligible for Pell Grants — financial aid awards given to low-income undergraduates by the federal government that do not need to be repaid. According to Quinlan, the incoming class has a record number of students receiving Pell Grants, with over 18.5 percent of U.S. citizens and permanent residents in the class of 2019 qualifying for a grant. This marks a 43 percent increase from the number of Pell-eligible students in the class of 2017.
Additionally, he said, 14.5 percent of the incoming class are first-generation college students — a 22 percent increase compared to the class of 2017.
Quinlan described these increases as “really unusual” and positive in an admissions landscape of typically small changes.
Director of Outreach and Recruitment Mark Dunn ’07 said Yale also committed to participating in joint outreach sessions with Harvard, Princeton and the University of Virginia, focusing on a message of access and affordability. Dunn said that based on surveys conducted after the sessions, the Admissions Office found that these group sessions draw larger and more diverse crowds than Yale-only sessions.
Another commitment was an expansion of the student ambassador program, which grew to 344 students during the 2014–15 academic year. These students visited a total of 676 high schools in 39 states, and Dunn described the program as “tremendously successful.”
Additionally, the University pledged to develop online pre-calculus course modules for incoming students — targeted at those who may have weaker math backgrounds. The program, called ONEXYS, helps prepare these students for Yale College math courses or to pursue STEM majors in the future. Professor of mathematics Jim Rolf, who spearheaded the program, said 20 students participated in the pilot-version of ONEXYS last summer, and 63 have registered for this summer’s program, which will begin on July 5.
“There are two important components to ONEXYS that we find important,” Rolf said. “[One] is helping students learn some mathematics that help them in their quantitative reasoning courses. [Two] is the social side of succeeding at Yale. We’re helping students think about practices and approaches that may be different here at Yale compared to their high school experience. We are giving them a taste of collaborative learning.”
This summer’s version of the program contains more pre-calculus content, adaptive technology to offer a more individualized experience to each participantm and an increased number of coaches. Coaches are not only expected to answer questions about the material, Rolf said, but to answer questions about life at Yale and the transition between high school and college.
Of all the commitments, Dunn said, he is most enthusiastic about the success of the Admissions Office’s directed mailing campaigns, and the ability to build on them in the future. He added that the mailings, which contain information about need-based financial aid and application fee waivers, can be used in a way that encourages high-achieving, low-income students to apply to a broad range of colleges more generally — not only Yale.
“Even if a student doesn’t choose to apply to Yale, I think this type of outreach [can] change the way he or she approaches the college application and financial aid processes,” Dunn said. “It’s been exciting to watch other schools come together to think about doing this work collectively.”
During the 2014–15 academic year, just over 50 percent of undergraduates received need-based aid from Yale.