Student advocacy groups herald student income contribution elimination as “clear victory”
Yale’s reduction of the student share of financial aid — which does away with the “Student Income Contribution” — came after years of student advocacy.
Eui Young Kim, Contributing Photographer
The Oct. 29 announcement of Yale College’s elimination of the student income contribution has generated on-campus discussion, with some students celebrating the development as a victory for organizers and others calling for additional reform.
The student income contribution is an unofficial term adopted by students, and is not used by the Office of Financial Aid. Financial aid awards are determined based on a “parent share,” how much the office estimates a student’s parents can contribute to the cost of attending Yale, and the “student share,” the amount the office expects students can contribute. The student share currently includes a $3,700 estimate, which is equivalent to the cost of books and other personal expenses. For students on partial aid, this includes an additional $750 for the first year and $2,250 for all remaining years. The latter costs are what student groups refer to as the “student income contribution,” as they are based on the Office of Financial Aid’s estimate of students’ abilities to work and therefore contribute to their cost of attendance.
Beginning next academic year, Yale will eliminate the student income contribution and thereby consider the student share as $3,700 for all students. Previously, only students who received a $0 parent share financial aid award had such a reduced student share, due to a 2020 reform that eliminated the student income contribution for such students. The $3,700 student share means that the Office of Financial Aid only expects students who receive aid to be responsible for personal expenses — estimated at $1,000 for books and $100 per week for necessities across the academic year, according to Yale’s press release on the matter. Students who had a $0 parent share financial aid package will see no change from this policy shift.
Student advocacy group Students Unite Now has been advocating for the elimination of the student income contribution since 2012, according to a Sunday press release from the group.
“I’ve taken arrest twice to demand the full elimination of the SIC,” SUN organizer Karissa McCright ’22 wrote in the press release. “I remember sitting across from administrators who said that eliminating the SIC was impossible or just not a priority, even as me and other students shared stories of hardship. If students hadn’t kept fighting, this policy change would never have been possible.”
The Yale College Council Financial Aid Task Force has also prioritized the elimination of the student income contribution, meeting with Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan and Director of Undergraduate Financial Aid Scott Wallace-Juedes twice a month.
“When I think about Yale’s financial aid reforms — expanding healthcare coverage, updating the office’s appointment system, reforming the SIC — these policies were all because of student advocacy,” Angela Avonce ’22, YCC Financial Aid Task Force director, wrote in an email to the News. “Students took the initiative to highlight that these were issues that Yale needed to address.”
For many students, the elimination of the student income contribution is a cause for celebration.
Zahra Yarali ’24 told the News that the reform came as a complete surprise.
“I found out Thursday right before midnight, just as the news was broken, and I found myself physically jumping for joy, mostly as a result of absolute shock that this step towards greater financial aid equity finally went through,” Yarali said.
When Patrick Hayes ’24 found out about the elimination of the student income contribution, he showed the news to his friend, and said that they “yelled and hugged.”
Hayes told the News that he is directly affected by the elimination of the student income contribution, as his student share was previously $5,950.
“I’ll be able to keep what I earn during the semester and the summers and put it toward savings and mutual aid,” Hayes wrote in an email to the News. “This is meaningfully helpful for me — Yale is effectively putting an additional $2,250 in my pocket each year, which means a lot.”
But because Yale reduced the student share to $3,700 in 2020, people who receive a $0 parent share financial aid package will not see a change from this policy shift.
Drew Ward ’23, who receives a $0 parent share financial aid package, recalled how prior to the 2020 reforms, the student income contribution was a burden so large that he almost chose not to attend Yale.
“I’ve worked one or two jobs through the University, and the 10 to 15 hours a week that I spent doing that, I could have been conducting research or spending more time with the rugby team or volunteering,” Ward wrote in an email to the News.
Ward celebrated the reform, but added that students should not stop advocating for change until everyone on campus “feels invited and welcome.”
Jeff Pham ’24 said that although the elimination of the student income contribution does not dramatically alter his personal costs, it will decrease the overall amount that his family spends on his education.
“I was very happy to hear that the student income contribution is being eliminated, but also very surprised,” Pham said. “This school often does not do enough to support its low income students, and after over 10 years of lobbying for this change, it felt like it would never happen, but I am glad it did.”
Pham also proposed future amendments that Yale could make to its financial aid policies, suggesting that the University reevaluate its current stances on non-liquid assets such as home equity.
Pham explained that his family was required to pay “multiple times more” for his education after paying off the mortgage on their home, which counts as an increase in his family net worth.
Hayes said he was surprised by the fact that the change only cost $3 million, noting that Yale’s endowment — which grew $11.1 billion this year — could pay for this change 3,700 times over.
Given the relative inexpensiveness of this reform when compared to the University’s endowment, Hayes expressed his frustration that the change had not been made before, and suggested broad restructuring of Yale’s financial aid system.
“I have many friends who come from low-income families that still have to pay for their education,” Hayes wrote in an email to the News. “This shouldn’t be the case. Financial aid policy should be flexible enough that anyone who is living in the middle class or working class shouldn’t have to pay for college. I don’t know how exactly you do that, but with all of the amazing students and organizers on campus, I’m sure that it’s possible.”
Quinlan said that the Provost’s Financial Aid Working Group works hard to ensure all admitted students can afford matriculation.
“Every enhancement has represented a significant new annual commitment to the undergraduate financial aid budget and has decreased the net cost of attendance for some or all students on aid,” Quinlan wrote in an email to the News.
YCC financial accessibility director Logan Roberts ’23 told the News that the elimination of the student income contribution was an important victory for students who receive financial aid from Yale, although he agreed that there is still more work to be done to ensure that first-generation, low-income students receive adequate support on campus.
Sammy Landino ’21, who led the YCC Financial Aid Task Force from 2018-21, echoed SUN’s and Roberts’ sentiments, commending Quinlan and Wallace-Juedes for being “willing and enthusiastic” to reform financial aid policies at Yale.
“Today’s reform represents a huge step forward, but we are a long way yet from a perfect university aid policy,” Landino wrote. “And Dean Quinlan and Director Wallace-Juedes are the first to recognize this.”
Landino further emphasized Quinlan and Wallace-Juedes’s willingness to collaborate with students as the reason for the ultimate success of the reform.
This is the fourth reduction the financial aid office has made to the student share since 2016.