The University unveiled a new online funding request system on Monday afternoon that will allow undergraduates to request monetary aid for unexpected financial emergencies.
Called SafetyNet, the website provides a “simple, uniform and equitable system” for students to seek funds when they can find no other solution to a financial problem. In an email to undergraduate students on Monday, Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun said that through the new portal students can request funds to cover emergency medical procedures, travelling costs for family emergencies and some academic expenses, among others. According to the director of the Yale Office of Fellowship Programs Rebekah Westphal, students are not expected to pay back funds received through SafetyNet.
“SafetyNet ensures consistency and fairness in providing all students with the same opportunity to seek funds when they can find no other solution to a financial problem,” Chun said. “It will help students from having to ask multiple sources for support … For those residential college and Yale College staff who have been dealing with these requests on an individual basis, this new tool provides a simple, uniform and equitable system for providing students this kind of support when it is needed.”
According to the director of the Yale Office of Fellowship Programs Rebekah Westphal, SafetyNet came out of strategic discussions held in the Dean’s Office about a year and a half ago. She added that SafetyNet gives the University an opportunity to gather data about the needs of Yale College students for future financial aid initiatives.
Westphal said the initiative is financed by the Yale College Dean’s Office, Office of Student Affairs and residential colleges.
SafetyNet falls in line with the initiatives the University has been rolling out for four consecutive years to support students going with financial hardships.
The launch of SafetyNet comes less than a month after the announcement of the First-Generation Low-Income Community Initiative, which aims to bring together various initiatives for FGLI students with a website on financial, career and academic services available for them. The leaders of the FGLI Community Initiative plan to create a “Career Closet” with formal clothing for students to borrow as well as coordinate community meals for FGLI students staying in New Haven over breaks.
Initiatives to help low-income students in previous years included reducing student effort expectation amounts and introducing the “high-need” category in financial aid considerations — these students receive a $2000 start-up grant in their first year and $600 in each of their consecutive years at Yale as well as free insurance.
“Yale has been really listening to our FGLI students over the past several years as they identified their needs or gaps in information about the Yale experience,” Associate Vice President and Dean of Student Engagement Burgwell Howard told the News earlier this month. “We saw an opportunity to address this ever-growing population and support them as they become a significant and important part of the Yale community.”
According to Westphal, other Ivy League Universities have emergency funding loan programs similar to SafetyNet. For example, the Brown University Short-Term Loan Program offers a zero-interest loans for students “experiencing cash-flow related situations where a buffer is needed immediately,” according to its website. However, the maximum amount that can be requested under Brown’s program is $500.
Five students interviewed by the News all praised the University’s efforts to support students going through financial hardship.
FGLI student ambassador Fatima Chughtai ’19 said that it is “invaluable to have a centralized system” dedicated to helping students facing unexpected financial emergencies because “those are the ones that often burden FGLI students the most.” While personal finance management is important, many FGLI students come to college already being used to saving and managing money, Chughtai explained.
Co-President of First-Generation Low-Income at Yale Maddy O’Neal ’19 added that SafetyNet will ensure a “fairer treatment and distribution of emergency money” and increase student awareness on the available resources.
“In the past, a lot of students, particularly of the FGLI community, would only know they could ask their Head of College or Dean for financial help if they knew upperclassmen,” O’Neal explained. “Making this a more centralized resource helps to make sure all FGLI students in need know how to access the resource.”
Last year Yale spent more than $145 million on need-based financial aid for undergraduates.
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