Finnegan Schick

Director of Financial Aid Caesar Storlazzi announced Dec. 15 that to further support low-income students, Yale will expand the financial aid initiatives rolled out in December 2015.

The earlier initiatives included startup funds for students with the highest financial need and a reduction of the student effort portion of the financial aid package, the amount of money students on financial aid are expected to pay toward their Yale education. But under the new policies, more incoming freshmen — those whose parents make under $65,000 and who have typical assets — will receive a $2,000 “startup fund” their first year for essential purchases such as a computer or winter clothing, as well as an additional $600 annual allowance for the following three years.

These students will only be expected to provide $1,700 as part of their summer income contribution during the sophomore, junior and senior years — a contribution 35 percent lower than that of most other students on financial aid. During the 2014–15 academic year, 639 Yale students’ families had an annual income of below $65,000.

According to Storlazzi, the student effort portion of the financial aid package will not increase for the 2017–18 academic year, marking the second consecutive year with no increase in the student effort in spite of the expansion of Yale’s financial aid budget, due largely to the opening of Yale’s two new residential colleges.

Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan noted that the new initiatives strengthen Yale’s commitment to eliminating financial barriers for admitted students.

“We stand by this commitment even as the college expands and includes more students from lower socio-economic backgrounds,” Quinlan said.

A year ago, Yale announced reductions in the student effort portion of the financial aid package after widespread student concerns that the requirement disproportionately impacted Yale’s poorest students.

Yale has also increased funding for other financial aid programs since then, including a $1,000 first-year allowance for high-need freshman international students and a $1,500 annual vacation allowance for all international students on financial aid. The latter grant is designed to support travel, housing and meals for international students on financial aid during the holiday breaks.

For students, the “startup fund” of $2,000 and the annual allowances mark an acknowledgement by the administration of a less noticed aspect of a student’s college expenses. Lorena Ortega-Guerrero ’20, who receives financial aid from Yale, said textbook prices and transportation costs between her home state California and New Haven were more subtle fees that many people don’t consider before choosing to attend college.

Jackie Honet ’19 said freeing students from worry about being able to afford necessities such as winter clothing helps them concentrate on their school work.

Still, some students said the new initiatives are insufficient and responded with renewed calls for a substantial reduction or a complete elimination of the student income contribution. Some students interviewed said that in an environment as competitive and challenging as Yale, the requirement to work during the school year and vacations to pay the student effort forces students to spend less time on academics, extracurriculars or sleep.

“Here at Yale many students do so many great things, when you have to work 10 hours a week or more, you miss out on that,” Ortega-Guerrero said. “You can’t do everything you want to do because you have to worry you can’t pay for the books next year.”

Ortega-Guerrero added that students who are on financial aid should enjoy the same liberty to engage in Yale’s opportunities, including the opportunity to take rigorous classes and participate in activities with high commitment. She said that this freedom is compromised by the constant pressure of work study and remains so even with the new initiatives.

Yet while most agree that reducing the percentage of student contribution would be beneficial, students disagree on the prospects of a total elimination. For some, preserving the work-study aspect of financial aid ensures that students are responsible for their education. Yet for others, responsibilities are not reflected by working to pay tuition.

“Why do you need them to prove themselves? Everyone should have to do that if certain people have to,” Sue Hong ’20 said. She added that although the new initiatives showed the administration’s willingness to listen to students’ concerns, they do not go so far to eliminate student effort, as she believes the initiatives should have done.

In 2015–16, Yale spent more than $122 million on undergraduate financial aid.