Jacob Madej

In the year 1789, a distinguished inventor named Eli Whitney came to Yale at the age of 23, despite his stepmother’s wishes.

Now, more students from nontraditional paths to college will be able to benefit from the program that bears his name.

The Eli Whitney Students Program — which allows students who have had at least a five-year break in their education to come to Yale to earn a degree — started in 2008. And at the end of last semester, Yale unveiled the most significant change in their financial aid policies in almost 11 years. Starting in the fall of 2019, Eli Whitney students who qualify for need-based financial aid and are enrolled in at least two credits per semester will receive a housing scholarship equal to the cost of a standard Yale college dorm.

“This new policy will make Yale College more accessible to our nontraditional students enrolled in the Eli Whitney Students Program,” said Scott Wallace-Juedes, the director of undergraduate financial aid. “These students enrich Yale College through their unique life experiences, sense of purpose and character.”

The program is “designed for individuals with high academic potential who have had their education interrupted, at some point during their educational careers, for five or more years,” according to the program’s website. Eli Whitney students are generally older than the usual Yale college student and live off campus. According to Yale’s admissions website, in recent years, “most Eli Whitney students” have qualified for need-based financial aid. Approximately 75 percent qualified for need-based full-tuition scholarship, in the same time frame.

The number of semesters students are eligible for the scholarship will be based on the number of transfer credits a student brings to Yale and their resulting class standing, explained Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid.

For example, a student who transferred into Yale with 18 credits would be considered the equivalent of a first-semester junior and would therefore receive a scholarship to cover four semesters of housing.

“The mission of the Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid is to make a Yale College education affordable to students and families from all backgrounds,” Quinlan said.

Several Eli Whitney students interviewed by the News said they appreciated the new policy.

Jake Fischer ’21, a US military veteran, called the change a “fantastic move by the administration that will have a great impact on us.” For Fischer, the Eli Whitney financial aid policy allows him to save a portion of his GI Bill for law school, giving him greater freedom for his applications.

“Limiting our financial aid to tuition made students work more hours or take loans in order to cover their housing and food costs,” Fischer said. “Veterans were forced to use their GI Bill when financial aid would have covered the costs at most universities. Eventually, I would like to see financial aid cover meal plans for qualifying students as well, but I recognize that this is a process that takes time.”

Currently, the Eli Whitney Students Program consists of approximately 25 students, according to the program’s website.

Skakel McCooey | skakel.mccooey@yale.edu .