Amay Tewari, Photo Editor

Along with the elimination of the student income contribution, Yale rolled out two changes to its financial aid policies last week that will affect international students on aid and undergraduates with children.

On Oct. 29, the Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid revealed three reforms to its internal policy. In conjunction with next year’s elimination of the Student Income Contribution, Yale will immediately cover all four years of marginal taxes for international students, who currently must pay a tax to the U.S government on all scholarships that exceed the cost of tuition and fund room, board, books and other expenses. Yale will also implement a child care subsidy for undergraduate students who are parents.

“With these two policies in particular, the projected benefits to affected students were obvious, and it was a relatively easy decision for the [Financial Aid Working Group] to recommend the policy changes,” Mark Dunn, the director of outreach and communications at the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, told the News. 

The Financial Aid Working Group reviews and recommends financial aid policy changes.

Previously, Yale only funded the marginal tax rate for international students on aid in their first year, but with the policy change, the University will take care of this fee for all eight semesters.

Sammy Landino ’21, who led the Yale College Council Financial Aid Task Force from 2018-21, explained that prior to this reform, receiving external aid could often hurt international students financially due to the tax burdens.

“With Yale covering the tax burden for all four years, the financial aid office fixes an important leak in international students’ financial aid packages,” Landino wrote in an email to the News. “These reforms also clarify part of the financial aid office’s philosophy: If you get aid, it’s because we’re trying to help you make the most of your time at Yale. As far as I’m concerned, covering the tax burden is a huge step in the right direction.”

Before this reform, students hailing from countries that had tax treaties with the U.S. were not taxed on their scholarships.

However, Sheri Ofwona ’23, who is from Kenya, explained that the countries that have tax treaties with the U.S. are often wealthier nations. 

“An example of this is that within the African continent, only Egypt, Morocco and South Africa have tax treaties with the U.S., which is a bit challenging because a lot of students that do come from some of these regions that do not have tax treaties are on the most amount of aid, so it kind of compounds on each other in that sense,” Ofwona said. 

It was Ofwona who first brought the issue of international financial aid to the attention of the YCC task force. She explained the situation to Landino and former YCC President Kahlil Greene ’22. Ofwona explained that she sent a preliminary survey about the issue to a network of other African students who are affected by the policy before beginning negotiations with Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Jeremiah Quinlan and Director of Undergraduate Financial Aid Scott Wallace-Juedes. 

“We didn’t think that this would happen this soon or at all really, honestly,” Ofwona said. “Now it’s just working out the kinks of the policy and program and then also just working overall to make sure that everyone is covered within this and seeing if there’s any other financial aid reforms for internationals that would be worth pursuing.”

For Nathan Somerville ’22, a first-generation, low-income student from the United Kingdom, this expansion and the elimination of the SIC were “long-overdue.” Because international students had to pay for costs like the marginal tax rate every year they spend on campus, not just the first, Somerville said, it did not previously make sense for Yale to only cover the first year.

Somerville, a student ambassador with the Community Initiative — an administrative organization supporting FGLI students — explained that international students incur greater costs to attend Yale because they must pay for travel and relocation expenses.

According to Dunn, the “change to international tax policy can be traced directly to the YCC financial aid task force.”

Somerville said that he appreciates the efforts Yale has made to make the school more financially equitable and that there is always more to do, both within the financial aid office and within the broader community.

“The immense gap in preparation to effectively navigate a community like Yale is simply not remedied by making Yale affordable,” Somerville said. 

He elaborated that the amount of time FGLI students spend working campus jobs also takes hours away from studying, which can in turn affect their academic performance.

Somerville’s observation follows a statement from Quinlan asserting that legacy students at Yale often fare better academically than their classmates.

“Despite the stereotypes about international students, a growing number are on heavy financial aid and hail from all over the world,” Somerville said. “Any support we can receive goes a long way.”

Although the YCC Financial Aid Task Force advocated for the change to international financial aid, they were uninvolved in the push for the child care subsidy, according to Landino. 

James Glatt ’24 served in active duty for the United States Navy for nine years before coming to Yale. When Glatt, an Eli Whitney student, is not in class, he cares for his two daughters — though he said his “MVP” wife takes point on childcare.

Effective for the fall 2021 semester, undergraduate students with children like Glatt will receive $5,000 per year if they have at least one child under 13. An additional subsidy of $1,000 per year will be available for each additional child under six.

Students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences have long been eligible for the same benefit.

Though the expansion of this policy for Yale College students was not intended to serve only those in the Eli Whitney program, Dunn reported that about 25 percent of Eli Whitney students are parents to children under 18.

Dunn wrote in an email to the News that the Eli Whitney Advisory Committee — a group including faculty, dean’s office staff and students that advocates for those in the program — pushed to include undergraduate students in the subsidy. 

“I think this change was necessary to make the program more inviting to students with families,” Glatt said. “Child care is a huge sticking point for people who put earning an income on hold while they attend school.”

Personally, Glatt said, he intends to put the money toward child care, which is “expensive” in New Haven. However, he has not yet received his subsidy, so he said he is not sure how much the benefits will help.

Glatt expressed concerns over the time it takes to be both a good parent and a good student.

“After saying I have kids I often get the response, ‘Oh wow. That has to be hard,’” Glatt wrote in an email to the News. “It’s true. It is! 1 out of 5 stars. I would not recommend it. When I go home after class I don’t get to kick back and relax. There’s dinner and bedtime routines and household chores. If anything, I don’t think people understand exactly how hard it is to balance school and family.” 

Applicants are eligible for the Eli Whitney Students Program if they do not have a bachelor’s degree and they have taken at least a five-year break from their undergraduate or high school studies.

Lucy Hodgman covers Student Life. She previously covered the Yale College Council for the News. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, she is a sophomore in Grace Hopper majoring in English.
Jordan Fitzgerald edits for WKND and writes about admissions, financial aid & alumni. She is a junior in Trumbull College majoring in American history.