The University is continuing to increase its efforts to address students’ concerns of misinformation and lack of transparency regarding financial aid.
Since the start of the term, the University has implemented extra informational sessions during Camp Yale, added a financial aid workshop to freshman counselor training and revamped the financial aid website and award letter to increase accessibility. Director of Financial Aid Caesar Storlazzi said that typically, freshmen and their parents sit through just two informational sessions about financial aid. This year, a third session was added to the program, Storlazzi said. Two were heavily attended, and one was only attended by a small handful of students, he added.
Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan said the sessions are just one example of the Admissions Office and Student Financial Services building off of conversations with the Yale College Council.
“The idea was that we needed to get the information to students quicker, and in a more upfront way, so we offered the sessions,” Quinlan said.
The two Saturday sessions were relatively well-attended, Storlazzi said; more than 100 students and parents were present at the first meeting, and roughly 50 attended the second.
However, he added, this year’s extra session — an 11 a.m. meeting on the first Monday after opening weekend — was only attended by five students, two of whom did not stay for the entire hour. SFS had essentially five staff members catering to two very attentive students, Storlazzi said.
“Based on this experience, we would suggest that one meeting on Saturday afternoon would be sufficient, and that the Monday meeting is not effective,” Storlazzi said.
He added that SFS is exploring ways to utilize its website to present short webinars on topics of interest so that students and parents have access to important information over the summer, which is when it is perhaps most crucial.
None of the seven freshmen interviewed said they attended the sessions, but many of them knew the events existed and appreciated them being offered.
Katherine Melbourne ’19 said she does not know of any students who went to the Saturday or Monday sessions, but she knows a few parents who attended.
In addition to the extra session, Storlazzi said he and Quinlan presented a “very short and pithy” 15-minute session on financial aid at FroCo training. Storlazzi said he has not yet received feedback on how effective the training was. FroCos interviewed said they were unable to comment on the training because of a policy prohibiting them from speaking to the media.
Looking forward, Quinlan and Storlazzi said that SFS, the Admissions Office and the YCC are continuing work on a revamped financial aid website and an updated financial aid award letter.
Storlazzi said the new website had a soft launch at the end of last week, meaning that the web address is active though the site is not completely finished.
“We are in the process of creating the links that will redirect from the old site to the new site,” Storlazzi said. “This is the result of a lot of work this summer, and we did ask for and receive student feedback in building the new [website].”
Rita Wang ’19 said she is happy to hear that the website is being revamped. She described the current financial aid process as “very confusing,” adding that she is still unsure of whether SFS has processed all of her documents yet. She also said that she had trouble figuring out which forms to submit when applying, and that important information could only be found on the website in extremely small font.
Storlazzi said that once the website is officially up and running, the University will continue making additions to it over the next year. He added that all feedback is welcome.
Quinlan projected that the updated financial aid award letter will be finished and ready by the time Early Action decisions for the class of 2020 have been released. According to Storlazzi, the letter is modeled on the federal government’s Shopping Sheet and will clearly delineate the family’s net cost, in addition to outlining how that net cost may be covered by need-based aid.
Over 50 percent of undergraduates are receiving financial aid for the 2014–15 school year.