On Monday, the three of us, as brothers, along with over 20 other students, sat in at the Office of Financial Aid and demanded that the Yale administration end the student income contribution. We were unflinching in our demand, refusing to leave until Yale agreed to eliminate the student income contribution. Our message was impossible to ignore: We are done waiting. Yale must eliminate the student income contribution. Instead, Yale administrators decided that they would rather arrest their students than listen to us.
As three brothers simultaneously attending Yale, our experience with the student income contribution is inextricable from our family’s experience. We come from a family whose expected family contribution is $0. Our parents raised us with the understanding that we, as low-income students of color, would have to work especially hard to prove that we belonged at a place like Yale. As working-class students, to excel academically at Yale is a matter of survival, a way to escape the financial insecurity that has plagued our family. To our family, having three children attend Yale on need-based scholarships was proof that our hard work paid off and offered hope that we would not have to endure the financial struggles we have faced growing up.
We soon realized, however, that being accepted into Yale was not going to ease stress in the way that Yale promised us that it would. Yale instead imposed new financial burdens. Through the student income contribution, the Yale administration singles us out, telling working-class students like us that our presence at Yale is on sufferance. Unlike Yale, our family understands that we deserve to be here, and that we have so much more to offer to academic, extracurricular and social life at Yale. This has forced our family to make one of two sacrifices: Either the three of us lose the opportunity for a full Yale experience, or our family incurs a cost — a cost that Yale already determined it could not afford. Our family has decided to pay three student income contributions so that we can value our education the way they raised us to. Our parents and grandparents all contribute to our student income contributions because they understand that the time spent working would make it impossible for us to focus on the experiences that make a Yale education valuable.
We walked into the Financial Aid Office and sat down because we are tired of the Yale administration telling us that our situation doesn’t affect our family. Puerto Rican families like ours treat any burden on one family member as a burden on the entire family, so it is absurd for Yale to suggest that there can ever be a family contribution of $0 while students still have to pay. To Yale, a contribution of a few thousand dollars is insignificant, but to my family, a few thousand dollars means struggling more with bills, being unable to save for retirement and providing less for our younger siblings still at home.
Yale will tell us that our experiences are invalid or an exception to rule, but the reality is that low-income students of color are faced with a choice: work to prove you deserve your Yale education or pay the price to focus on academics, no matter if your loved ones incur that burden. Until the student income contribution is eliminated, low-income students and their families will continue to make impossible choices that they should not have to make. We sat in because Yale has the power to remove financial burdens from our family, other working-class students and the people who will still have to pay the student income contribution after we graduate. The way to create a better Yale is by standing — or sitting — together and not letting the administration divide us from each other and our families. We have showed Yale that we will fight for each other in love and solidarity, and together we shouted loudly and clearly: The student income contribution must end.
David Diaz is a senior in Saybrook College. Jake Diaz is a sophomore in Branford College. Josh Diaz is a first year in Morse College. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org .