“We work, we learn, we want to take home what we earn!” over 100 undergraduates chanted, as they marched from Old Campus to the office of the newly renamed Yale Alumni Association, calling for the elimination of the student income contribution.
On Thursday, members of Students Unite Now — an organization that has advocated for the elimination of the student income contribution since 2012 — held a rally and left several banners on the railings of the alumni office in protest of the University’s decision not to eliminate the student contribution. The banners were comprised of statements written by over 800 of 1,578 current first years who described the opportunities they missed because they had to work on campus. According to Student Unite Now organizer Isadora Milanez ’19, the goal of the march was to highlight the experience of first years, who still have seven semesters of earning and paying the student income contribution ahead of them at Yale.
“When we meet with administrators, one of the main reasons they give for the student income contribution is that big donors really like it,” organizer Julia Salseda-Angeles ’19 told the rally’s participants. “Donors who went to Yale in the ’50s and ’60s like the idea that students are valuing their education because of their work. But the way that Yale looks now is very different from how Yale looked in the ’50s and ’60s. I think Yale should prioritise the students who are here and not the biggest and richest donors.”
In February, University President Peter Salovey told the News that eliminating the student income contribution will not be a priority in Yale’s new capital campaign, which is currently in its silent phase. But undergraduates were unfazed by this announcement. Two months later, 27 Students Unite Now members held a two-hour sit-in at the Financial Aid Office, saying they would not leave until the University eliminated the contribution. All 27 students received citations for trespassing, as they refused to leave the building after 4:30 p.m — the time it closes for the night. Thursday’s protest was the organization’s first event speaking out against the income contribution this semester.
David Diaz ’18, who received a citation during the April sit-in, said that the Yale administration should consider the opinions on the student income contribution expressed by minority groups such as queer students of color and alumni — whom the student contribution “disproportionately harms” — rather than those of “white and cis-male donors.”
“Although I wasn’t able to attend the rally, I was able to talk in March with the leaders of SUN, at their request, and learn more about their efforts,” Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun wrote in an email to the News. “I shared the constraints that stand in the way of eliminating the student effort, and in particular how the university’s endowment is restricted, often by unbreakable indentures, in ways that prevent it from covering the full cost of attendance for all students on financial aid without reducing the size of the faculty or staff, limiting financial aid to approximately 360 fewer students than now, or increasing tuition for all students not on financial aid by about $6,000 — none of them viable options.
Several first years also shared the stories of hardships they faced because they had to work toward covering the contribution.
Rahshemah Stevenson Wise ’22, who comes from a low-income, single-parent household, said that she applied to Yale because the University website stated that students whose family income is less than $65,000 would receive full-ride scholarships. But she said that when she looked at her financial aid package, the amount she received was “significantly lower” than the one she had expected, since the package included a student income contribution. Stevenson Wise told the News that information about the contribution is not “made as clear as it should be” to students prior to their admission to Yale.
At the rally, Stevenson Wise said that she had to work a full-time job the entire summer before college instead of spending time with friends and family “whom she would not see for months” while she was at Yale.
“I don’t want to be allowed just a place in the University, in a lecture hall, in the room or even at the table,” McKinsey Crozier ’22 said at the rally. “I want to fully participate in this University — a University that requires additional funding for participation at all. I want to be a part of this community.”
In the fall of 2017, the University announced that for students with no parental contribution, it will reduce the expected summer income contribution to $1,600 for all four years. Yale also offers these students free insurance. Furthermore, last year, Yale established the Domestic Summer Award that gives students eligible for need-based financial aid $4,000 to work for nonprofits, nongovernmental organizations, government agencies and practicing artists over the summer.
In addition to the DSA and policy reform, Chun told the News that since his meeting with the SUN in March, Yale Safety Net — a new website for students to manage their money — has become available, enabling students to request funds to meet unexpected financial need. Chun said that he is working to make Yale more “inclusive and accessible” through these efforts.
Dean of Admission Jeremiah Quinlan wrote in a statement to the Yale College Dean’s Office that though he feels “strongly” that Yale’s current policies are “generous and fair,” he recognized that many Yale students face “unique and unexpected financial challenges” during their four years at Yale.
“Yale’s financial aid officers will always listen and seek to understand the unique contours of a family’s situation, and provide guidance aabout solutions that will keep te student enrolled at Yale,” Quinlan wrote.
Naomi D’Arbell Bobadilla ’21 told the News that despite the University’s recent strides “in the right direction,” Yale still has not done enough for its students in terms of reducing the burden the student income contribution imposes on them. She noted that the 800 statements made against it are a testament to that sentiment.
This academic year, the Yale College term bill is $69,430.
Jever Mariwala | email@example.com