With Yale College Council elections on the horizon, all five presidential candidates have made eliminating the student effort a central part of their campaigns — but they have proposed smaller-scale financial aid reforms as well.
In response to student activism, the administration announced in December that the student effort — an amount that students on financial aid are asked to contribute toward their Yale education — would be reduced next year from its current amount of $6,400 by $1,350 for students with a parent contribution of zero and $450 for everyone else. Sarah Armstrong ’18, Diksha Brahmbhatt ’18, Carter Helschien ’18, Josh Hochman ’18 and Peter Huang ’18 all vowed to carry on advocacy to eliminate the expectation altogether. But, acknowledging that full elimination of the student effort would likely not happen during their terms as president, several have also presented more creative proposals to benefit low-income students in the short term.
“In terms of eliminating [the student effort] completely, that’s not going to happen in this next year,” Brahmbhatt said. “It’s not something that the YCC can promise to do, or we would be giving people false hope.”
Brahmbhatt and Huang both said they want to establish more rewarding jobs on campus for students to exercise their passions and unique skill sets while also being paid. For example, Huang said, the YCC could work to increase the number of paid research positions available on campus.
Others focused on policies tangentially related to financial aid for the lowest-income students at Yale. Hochman’s platform calls for elimination of mandatory course drop fees as well as a review of how individual residential colleges distribute emergency funds to students with extreme financial need.
By contrast, Armstrong and Helschien’s solutions focused more on recipients of financial aid in general. Armstrong said the YCC should create awareness that tuition insurance is available, as well as generate more administrative support in the Financial Aid Office for international students and those whose parents do not speak English.
“I think that’s something that can be addressed pretty quickly,” Armstrong said.
Apart from eliminating the student effort, Helschien’s platform calls only for financial aid for summer class and study abroad opportunities. He did not address a specific timeline for eliminating the student effort, but he said it was a priority.
Director of Financial Aid Caesar Storlazzi said he has not been following the proposals but read summaries of the candidates’ campaigns in the News. He said his office does not oversee policies that residential colleges may have on how they distribute their funds, but he added that he looks forward to speaking about financial aid issues with students and administrators in the years ahead.
Though it was not on any candidate’s initial platform, all except Helschien indicated that they would be in support of a $15 minimum wage on campus. Tyler Blackmon ’16, who has been an outspoken critic of the University’s financial aid policies, sent out a survey to all candidates asking whether they supported the increased wage. Last month, Columbia University implemented a similar policy after advocacy from Fight for $15, a national activist group.
Helschien said he opposed the measure because he did not think it would be fair to increase student employees’ wages without also increasing those of University staff. Furthermore, he said, Columbia’s situation was different from Yale’s, as the cost of living is higher in New York City. He dismissed the proposal as being attractive to uninformed voters.
“A lot of the candidates in this race I feel were pressured to take a stance on that survey … that would be most favorable to uninformed voters,” Helschien said.
Current YCC President Joe English ’17 has said in the past that he does not support a $15 student minimum wage on the grounds that those funds would be better allocated toward fellowships specifically for low-income students.
Voting for this year’s YCC elections begins Thursday.