Courtesy of Risa Sodi

Starting in the 2022-23 academic year, Yale will meet 100 percent of demonstrated financial need for Eli Whitney students — nontraditional undergraduates who have taken time off before matriculating to Yale — on financial aid. 

Risa Sodi, assistant dean of Yale College and director of the Eli Whitney Students Program announced the change to the 42 Eli Whitney students at Yale College in a Nov. 23 email. Financial aid packages for Eli Whitney students can now cover the full cost of attendance, which includes tuition, fees, standard housing, meals — equivalent to on-campus rates — as well as an estimate for personal expenses such as books and travel. Previously, financial aid for Eli Whitney students covered at maximum the tuition cost for the number of classes in which a student is enrolled, with additional scholarships offered for weekday lunch and housing.

Eli Whitney students who have enrolled part-time are eligible for the aid package, and students with dependent children — whether or not they are part of the Eli Whitney Students Program — can still receive a childcare subsidy. The aid is available for 150 percent of a student’s program length. For example, students who are supposed to finish their degree in eight semesters will have 12 terms to complete their education, allowing them to be enrolled part time without compromising their aid. 

“I can now ease that part of the brain that tries to allocate how my budget will work month by month,” Eli Whitney student Rudy Cordero ’22 said.

According to Sodi, this is the fourth enhancement to Eli Whitney student financial aid in recent years: a no-fee lunch plan went into effect in 2016, a housing scholarship was created in 2019 and the childcare subsidy began this fall. Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions Patricia Wei, who also serves as the director of admissions for the Eli Whitney Students Program and the director of veterans outreach, told the News that many of these policies will become obsolete now that the University has committed to meeting 100 percent need.

Wei further added that the new policy change will afford financial aid opportunities to Eli Whitney students that “match the financial aid policy of every other Yale student.”

“I am delighted that Yale is increasing the financial support for these remarkable undergraduates,” Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Jeremiah Quinlan told the News. “We emphasize to all prospective and current students that the mission of the Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid is to ensure that cost is never a barrier between any undergraduate student and their education. This meaningful policy change helps us advance that mission.”

Cordero said he recognizes and appreciates the efforts of the Yale administration. He entered college for the first time around the Great Recession. After his parents, both of whom immigrated from Mexico, were laid off and one got sick, Cordero decided that it was his duty as the oldest child to drop out and take care of his family. If you want to explore other options Little Angels early learning.

Cordero then entered the workforce and earned his associate’s degree. He applied to Yale while working for ShoppingGives — an organization that raises money for non-profits through e-commerce — and continues to serve as a part-time employee as he completes his Yale studies.

“Yale is consistently working to improve financial equity across the board and you can see that in the history of the program over the last 20 years,” Cordero said. “We can see how committed Dean Sodi and Patricia Wei are to this program and to making sure Elis have a real Yale experience and that financial aid access will not get in the way of that.”

Still, Cordero emphasized that there is always room for improvement. He pointed to the clause that Eli Whitney students can use their aid for 150 percent of their designated term time, explaining that the provision confused him at first — though he was later able to speak to Wei to clarify — especially within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is currently spiking once again.

Cordero, who started at Yale last year when classes were conducted online, said that all undergraduate students — in the Eli Whitney program, at Yale and in the world — are part of a “COVID class” that requires more flexibility when it comes to deadlines.

Wei, who is “thrilled” about the policy change, said the 150 percent term time eligibility is meant to retain the freedom Eli Whitney students have to enroll part-time.

According to Sodi, Cordero’s overall favorable response has been a typical one. She explained that the reception has been “positive,” but that students have questions about their own individual cases. To clear up any confusion, the Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid will host a Q&A session during reading week.

Cordero said he did not want to speak for the whole “close-knit” and “diverse” Eli Whitney cohort.

“There’s a common misconception that we all fit a common bubble,” he explained. “There’s either a misconception that we’re all a group of entrepreneurs or that we’re all a group of veterans or that we’re all a group of parents.”

Really, Cordero said, those in the Eli Whitney cohort are students just like any other undergraduates. They are just a bit older, with the average age of an Eli Whitney student hovering around 30.

Wei echoed Cordero’s sentiment.

“It’s a really interesting and diverse group of adult students who add tremendously to the discussion inside and out of the classroom,” she said “I think they’re very valued members of the undergrad community and we’d love to have more of them.”

In an Oct. 24 email regarding “Progress in Building a Stronger and More Inclusive Yale,” University President Peter Salovey said Yale is working toward building a more robust class of non-traditional students. The email followed a 2020 dedication to expanding the Eli Whitney and transfer student program.

Since then, Wei and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions have focused on recruiting more non-traditional students. This effort has included conducting virtual information sessions and college fairs, developing connections with community colleges and joining the Transfer Scholars Network, which connects high-achieving community college students with prestigious institutions like Yale.

Sodi added that the Eli Whitney cohort has expanded by almost 150 percent in the past five years, and that last year’s cohort was the “largest in recent memory.” She said that the program’s growth rendered it “an optimal time” to boost financial aid for Eli Whitney students.

Wei affirmed the timeliness of the financial aid fortification.

“In part because of our commitment and President Salovey’s commitment to enrolling more students from community colleges, more students into the Eli Whitney Program and more veteran students, it was important to enhance our financial aid program,” Wei explained. 

The Eli Whitney Program began in 2008 as a revamping of Yale’s Special Student Program.

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.