Nearly one hundred undergraduates gathered with Students Unite Now to march from Old Campus to the Undergraduate Admissions Office on Thursday afternoon to demand the “full elimination of the [student effort].”
Founded eight years ago, SUN is a student organization that advocates for more generous financial aid policy, arguing that Yale does not fulfill 100 percent of student financial need and that the student effort limits the college experience of low-income students. At Thursday’s march, students chanted “let’s improve this institution, no more Income Contribution,” and “It’s unfair, can’t you see? Yale should end the SIC,” before marching to the Undergraduate Admissions Office. There, protesters shared their personal experiences with the student effort portion of financial aid, colloquially as the “student income contribution.” According to the Yale financial aid website, the majority of the student effort “is used to cover unbilled expenses and is not used towards tuition, room, and board.”
“Since 2012, Students Unite Now has exposed how the SIC divides campus along lines of race, class, and more,” SUN member Naomi D’Arbell Bobadilla ’21 wrote in a statement to the News. “Our movement drives Yale closer to full-need financial aid, and we are proud to have cutback the SIC from $6,400 in 2014 to the incoming $3,700 for students on full financial aid.”
Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun declined the News’ request for comment. Director of Outreach and Communications Mark Dunn also declined the News’ request for comment and referred the News to a Yale News article announcing the changes made to the student effort.
Prior to the march, Michael Sanchez ’23 delivered a speech on Old Campus.
According to Sanchez, his financial worries prevent him from participating in as many extracurriculars as he would like.
“Right now as a first year, I have the highest level of student support,” Sanchez said. “Knowing this means I can’t take as many extracurriculars as I would like. There are many groups here I would love to try, but I can’t. So I’m stuck here feeling anxious about not joining enough groups.”
The march left Old Campus through Phelps Gate before briefly stopping at the Yale College Dean’s Office for a speech by Caitlyn Clark ’22. The group then continued to the Undergraduate Admissions Office, where Jordan Young ’21 spoke.
Young and Clark spoke about the issues financial aid causes in regards to their mental health.
“The lack of financial resources makes stress and mental illness harder to cope with,” Young said, quoting an Opinion column he wrote for the News. “Why does Yale, with its vast financial resources, keep policies that force low-income students to work or take out loans for educational expenses?”
At the end of the march, students left banners and signs with quotes from first years on what they would gain from the student effort’s elimination.
Yale College Council President Kahlil Greene ’21 — who attended the march — told the News that first years’ involvement in the demonstration was especially important. While he noted that first years often “feel like they don’t have a voice,” SUN organizers purposefully “put them at the forefront” and “[highlighted] their experiences.”
“The SUN demonstration was a great display of what students feel about income inequality at Yale,” Greene said. “I hope that the administration opens up communication channels to talk about how to better support, low income students, students on financial aid.”
SUN previously made headlines during last year’s Bulldog Days when 24 students faced arrest after staging sit-ins in front of Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall and Phelps Gate.
After the Admissions Office and the Provost Office conducted their annual budget evaluation, Yale announced a new financial aid policy this fall. While students whose parents pay $0 toward their education are currently expected to contribute $4,450 during their first year at Yale and $4,950 in subsequent years, the new rate will be $3,700 per year through the student’s time on campus. This new change will go into effect during the 2020-2021 academic year.
Despite the change, some members of campus advocacy groups argued that Yale should do even more to help low-income students. In a post on Facebook following the fall announcement, SUN stated that they will continue to push for more financial aid.
“While the recent hard-won victory will reduce the SIC’s burden on those who have a zero-parent-share, the SIC remains,” SUN wrote on its Facebook page. “Rather than try to deliberately confuse students by changing terminology, Yale must fully eliminate the Student Income Contribution in order to provide full-need financial aid, for real. We will be back, and we will win for one another.”
The new financial changes this fall also included an increase in the family income threshold to receive the $0 parent share award, from $65,000 to $75,000.
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