Jessie Cheung, Staff Photographer

This year, the Yale School of Public Health is accommodating a record number of students in scholarship aid — a result of donations from alumni and school affiliates.

The School of Public Health aims to raise $300,000 in alumni donations by the end of 2021 — the most ambitious goal in the school’s history. School of Public Health leadership council member Mary Gilbert Lawrence MPH ’98 and James Lawrence ’74 extended a donation at the beginning of October to cover the remaining funds the school needed, which totaled around $85,000. Two other donors have also established a challenge fund that will match gifts of $25,000 or more to establish endowed scholarship funds at the School of Public Health. 

“Scholarships make Yale possible,” said Swarali Atre MPH ’23. “When I thought of applying to Yale, I had decided that if I got a scholarship, only then I would go.”

According to the school’s fact sheet, the average student debt post-graduation is currently $68,626, a statistic that reflects the high tuition rates of the school, Evans said. The 2021-22 total cost of attendance, which includes classes, living expenses and additional fees for the school’s most popular two-year master’s program is $73,808, while that of the 11-month “Advanced Professional MPH” program, which includes an additional summer term, hovers at around $91,580. 

This cost, combined with the salaries of around $50,000 to $75,000 that most students receive after graduation, makes it a priority for the School of Public Health administration to provide financial aid support to its students, according to Senior Director of Development and Alumni Affairs Cornelia Evans. There are currently 803 students enrolled in the School of Public Health and 595 in the master’s program, which is up from last year. Given that 69.16 percent of students received aid in the 2020 financial year, the School of Public Health had to increase its fundraising goal to support more students.

In addition to paying back loans and thinking ahead about their future careers, students also commented on the financial challenges that naturally come with the responsibilities of being a student. 

“School alone is a lot to deal with,” said Jacob Chen SPH ’22, School of Public Health graduate and professional student senator. “Dealing with five classes, doing research, doing other student organizations just having scholarships there is one thing less to stress about.”

Though the school considers all eligible students for financial aid without a separate merit application, Atre and Chen explained that their scholarship decisions are also partly based on their general admissions application, which includes GPA, a letter of intent, letters of recommendation and a CV. 

Chen spoke of a peer who, after being admitted, considered reapplying with a stronger application to hopefully receive more scholarship aid. 

“Ideally, we would love it if our students can come debt-free out of the School of Public Health,” Evans said. To achieve this, the School of Public Health needs $323 million in funding to sustain a $16 million annual need, a stark reality given that the school’s endowment is less than one percent of that of the University, according to the fact sheet.

Evans emphasized that these recent alumni donations not only work toward the reality of a more affordable YSPH by encouraging others to support the future “front line workers of the pandemic,” but they also help the staff invest their resources and attention in other financial goals, such as the University’s new $7 billion “For Humanity” capital campaign as well as programs to support alumni during the pandemic. Recent efforts have included generating an informative newsletter series and Facebook livestreams on COVID-19 and reconnecting alumni with one another.

Forty-three percent of the scholarship funding provided to students during the 2021 financial year was sourced from endowed funds. 

Brian Zhang is Arts editor of the Yale Daily News and the third-year class president at Yale. Previously, he covered student life for the University desk. His writing can also be found in Insider Magazine, The Sacramento Bee, BrainPOP, New York Family and uInterview. Follow @briansnotebook on Instagram for more!