On Friday, representatives from the campus activist group Students Unite Now met with Director of Financial Aid Caesar Storlazzi in an effort to persuade him to endorse the group’s stance on eliminating the student effort. At the meeting, Storlazzi defended the existence of the student effort and refused SUN’s requests to advocate to other administrators on behalf of the group, according to SUN members present.
The meeting, which roughly 25 members of SUN attended at Student Financial Services, was a follow-up to a speak-out held by the group outside the same building on March 10. Three days earlier, SUN launched a website called financialaidatyale.org that called for the elimination of the student effort and shared emotionally charged stories of student struggles with the expectation, as well as endorsements from 12 campus groups. In the meeting, Storlazzi doubled down on his claim that financial aid should take the form of a partnership between students, their parents and the University, according to SUN members who attended.
“The partnership idea is fundamental to a need-based financial aid program,” Storlazzi told the News on Monday. “Parents and students contribute based on sound needs-analysis principles; the University makes up the difference. These are universal principles adopted by all schools with need-based programs.”
The administration has been criticized by students in the past for defending the student effort based on the need for what has been described by students and administrators as “skin in the game” — the idea that requiring students on financial aid to work to afford Yale makes them more invested in their educations. Students have maintained in the past that the policy disproportionately affects those at Yale with the highest financial need, and results in two different college experiences for students on financial aid and those who are not. Furthermore, students on financial aid have claimed that the policy does not affect how appreciative they are of attending Yale. In both cases — a partnership and having “skin in the game” — students are meant to have some sort of investment in their educations beyond just having their tuitions paid.
Jesús Gutiérrez ’16, one of the leaders of SUN who attended the meeting, said he understands that Storlazzi alone does not make policy decisions, like those which could abolish the student effort, but asked him to endorse SUN and advocate for the requirement’s elimination at meetings with University President Peter Salovey, Provost Benjamin Polak and Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway. However, Storlazzi refused, based on the need for a partnership, Gutiérrez said.
In response to student activism over the past few years, Storlazzi and Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan announced at a Dec. 8 town hall meeting that next year, the summer portion of the student effort would drop, from $3,050, by $1,350 for students with the highest need and by $450 for everyone else. All five candidates running for Yale College Council president this year called for the total elimination of the student effort.
Despite next year’s decrease in the student effort, Quinlan told the News that the administration stands by the partnership he spoke about at the December town hall, stressing that the number-one goal of financial aid is to make Yale affordable. He said the administration does not expect this philosophy to change, and that ongoing conversations are about setting the appropriate amount for the expectation, rather than its total elimination.
“Just as in December, we feel that this is a partnership between students and families,” Quinlan said. “This belief has been the guiding principle around our need-based packages for decades.”
Still, during a question-and-answer session after the December town hall, Storlazzi stated that Yale would completely scrap the contribution were it not for University budget constraints. This was after he and Quinlan emphasized the need for a partnership between students and their parents and Yale.
H. McCormick ’17, who attended the Friday meeting, was disappointed that Storlazzi would not endorse SUN, given how much power Storlazzi has in influencing financial aid policy. McCormick added that the student effort makes life extremely difficult for low-income students who are required to pay it.
“[Storlazzi] doesn’t think that what we’re going through is real,” McCormick said. “He’s saying he hears us, but he’s also saying there has to be a three-way partnership.”
Yale’s current financial aid budget is $122 million.