Eui Young Kim, Contributing Photographer

Next week, Yale College will announce three reforms to its financial aid system, including an elimination of the student income contribution. 

Yale’s financial aid office crafts its awards based on one’s “expected financial contribution” — what one’s family is expected to pay toward the cost of attending Yale — which is further broken down into a “parent share” and a “student share.” The student share has historically been based on the financial aid office’s estimate of how much they believe a student could contribute to the cost of attendance based on summer or year-round jobs. For some, the student share exceeded the financial aid office’s $3,700 estimate for the cost of books and other Yale-related everyday expenses. Students colloquially referred to that excess amount as the “Student Income Contribution,” though the Office of Financial Aid does not employ this moniker. The student share can range from $3,700 — solely the estimated cost of books and personal expenses — to $5,950, including the student income contribution.

Beginning next academic year, Yale will estimate a student share for all students on financial aid as $3,700, and will therefore eliminate the student income contribution. Previously, only students with no parent share — those whose combined family income is less than $75,000 — had this reduced estimate. The student income contribution will continue to inform students on partial aid’s awards for the remainder of the 2021-22 academic year.

Effective immediately, Yale will also cover the marginal tax rate for international students receiving scholarships that exceed tuition and enable them to pay for room, board and personal expenses. Yale is also immediately implementing a child care subsidy for Yale College students with dependents, equivalent to that in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

“Yale is a school, and if you go to a school, you go there to learn, and grow, and have fun.” Sammy Landino ’21, who directed the Yale College Council Financial Aid Task Force from 2018-21, wrote in an email to the News. “But hitting students with costs that they have to find employment to earn money to repay takes away their chance to make the most of the school.”

These reforms came from the fourth round of recommendations made by the Financial Aid Working Group, a group founded by former Provost Benjamin Polak in 2015. The working group reviews and recommends financial aid policy changes.

Members include the University Provost Scott Strobel, Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Jeremiah Quinlan and Director of Undergraduate Financial Aid Scott Wallace-Juedes among others.

The YCC Financial Aid Task Force, which collaborates with Quinlan and Wallace-Juedes to brainstorm strategies to increase financial equity on campus, also worked with the Financial Aid Working Group in proposing these changes.

The Student Share

According to Landino, reducing the student share was the largest priority of his tenure, although the group also focused on healthcare coverage and home equity evaluations. After Princeton University announced in 2019 the same student share reduction that he and other Yalies were calling for, Landino said his goal seemed much more feasible.

In 2020, Yale capped the student share at $3,700 for students at the highest level of financial need, thereby eliminating the so-called student income contribution for this group. Students receiving less aid still had a student share of $4,450 for their first year and $5,950 for each following year.

Now, Yalies receiving need-based aid will only have to account for books, laundry and other personal expenses, which could amount to less than the $3,700 dollar estimate. This marks a 34 percent decrease in the student share for those on partial aid, which amounts to about $7,500 over the course of four years, Wallace-Juedes claimed.

The University will invest $3 million into this accessibility initiative. Landino emphasized that Yale, whose endowment soared to $42.3 billion this year, has the funds and the responsibility to increase financial accessibility. 

Landino and Yale administrators agreed that the policy may increase socioeconomic diversity at Yale and limit payday loans online as well as student loans.

“In addition to reducing costs and increasing Yale scholarship grants for current students, the reduction in the student share will help us communicate Yale’s commitment to affordability with prospective students,” Quinlan said. “The change simplifies the financial aid award and helps us continue conveying a clear message to all students: if you are admitted, cost will not be a barrier for your family.”

Student activists, like those in Students Unite Now, have been advocating for this policy change for at least a decade.  

YCC Financial Aid Task Force Director Angela Avonce ’22 joined the task force as a first year and now leads the group as a senior. She highlighted that as a first-generation, low-income student, she understands that the FGLI community is especially affected by Yale’s financial aid policies.

“Student testimonials are powerful,” Avonce said. “Students have talked about the student income contribution’s negative impact on their academics and mental health in town halls, YDN articles, Facebook posts, group meetings, group chats. … It’s difficult for FGLI students to have a seat at the table, and even more rare for FGLI students to be one of the leading voices at the table. It’s an opportunity I’m very grateful for.” 

International Student Equity and Child Care Support

Unlike the diminished student share, the other two amendments to Yale’s financial aid policy will take effect immediately.

Though Yale has offered full need-based aid for international students since 2001, the students must pay United States taxes on all scholarship money that exceeds their cost of tuition — even if that money was meant to pay for room and board, school supplies or other academic expenses.

Yale previously financed this marginal tax for an international student’s first two semesters in New Haven. But with the new policy, the University will cover all eight semesters. 

According to Mark Dunn, director of outreach and communications at the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, this expansion will make financing smoother for international Elis and help them navigate the U.S. tax system. He attributed the change to the YCC task force’s advocacy efforts. 

Yale will also subsidize child care costs for students with dependent children. 

Though the policy does not directly target Eli Whitney students, that group is the most likely to benefit. About a quarter of Eli Whitney students have children who are under 18, according to Dunn. The Eli Whitney Advisory Committee — a group consisting of faculty, Dean’s Office administrators and Eli Whitney students who advocate for the group — called for this expansion.

The subsidy grants almost $5,000 per year to students with at least one child under 13. Students will receive an additional $1,000 per year for each child under the age of six. 

Students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences are eligible for the same subsidy.

“We hope that adding dependent child care support will help those Yale College students caring for children [to] engage more fully in the undergraduate experience, and we hope that the tax support for international students will help simplify their finances and prevent surprise bills from the IRS,” Dunn said.

International students and students with dependents will receive this funding as part of their financial aid awards for the fall 2021 semester.

Avonce said there is still more work to be done, but she is proud of what Yale students and administrators have accomplished so far.

“Yale’s financial aid policies aren’t perfect; there’s always going to be room for improvement,” she said. “But every time there is a new reform, a victory — big or small — I think it is worth celebrating.”

Yale raised the threshold for the zero-dollar parent share to $75,000 in 2020.

Correction, Oct. 31: A previous version of this article implied that the student income contribution is an amount that appears on a Yale College bill. This is inaccurate. The phrase “student income contribution” instead refers to the financial aid office’s estimate of a student’s ability to contribute to the cost of attending Yale, which in turn informs a student’s financial aid award. The elimination of the student income contribution will therefore raise some students’ financial aid awards. The article has been updated throughout to reflect these changes. The News regrets the error. 

Jordan Fitzgerald serves as a University editor for the News. She previously edited for WKND and wrote about admissions, financial aid & alumni. She is a senior in Trumbull College majoring in American history.