First years, sophomores express concerns about formal ticket prices￼
Some students have raised issues with the cost of tickets for the first year and sophomore formals, which are scheduled to take place in Commons.
Courtesy of Yale Schwarzman Center
As formals for the class of 2024 and 2025 draw near, some students have taken issue with the 15 dollar ticket charge for the annual event.
In addition to a formal for members of the class of 2025, the Sophomore Class Council will hold the Sophomore Formal for members of the class of 2024 who lost the first-year tradition to the COVID-19 pandemic. The two events will be held on Friday and Saturday, respectively, in Commons — much like the two holiday dinners that the University hosted this winter. But while students attended the holiday dinner free of charge, tickets to the first year and sophomore formals will cost each student $15, a price that struck six students interviewed by the News as exorbitant.
“$15 is a lot of money, regardless of your situation,” Ijeamaka Achebe ’25 said. “We’re coughing up $15 dollars for this event, because it seems like something that everyone’s going to. You don’t want to miss out on something that could be a big part of your experience as a first year, but at what cost?”
All six students told the News that until this week, they had not expected that the event would be priced at all. The last time the event took place, in February 2020, it was held in the Omni Hotel due to construction in Commons, and tickets cost $18. FCC research revealed that tickets have always been priced in the past, with an average charge of around $15, Liam Heraty ’25, who is a member of Yale’s First-Year Class Council and co-chair of the First Year Formal Committee, told the News.
Heraty said that charging for tickets is a necessity because the event is hosted not by Yale but by the First-Year Class Council. Although Heraty could not confirm the exact price of the event — including the expenses of catering, decorations and a hired DJ and photographer — he estimated that the cumulative cost was over $25,000. The price for Sophomore Formal is similar, according to Sophomore Class Council President Leleda Beraki ’24, who said that the event cost over $20,000.
Heraty attributed the total cost of the event to several factors which he said were out of the student government’s hands, including the University’s requirement that the event be catered by Yale Dining, rather than a less expensive alternative, and that a meal be provided for all students attending the event, making it impossible for students not interested in eating at their formal to purchase a less expensive ticket.
“Funding for events hosted by the class councils comes from a variety of places,” Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Hannah Peck wrote in an email to the News. “The First Year Formal has traditionally been covered by a combination of funds from the FCC budget, profits from Yale/Harvard T-shirt sales, and event ticket sales. The YCDO sometimes subsidizes these events, particularly if there is a specific need. For example, the year Commons closed for renovations, the YCDO gave funding to the FCC to cover the extra cost of holding the event at the Omni.”
Without ticket revenue, Heraty said, the sole source of funding for the event is the FCC budget, which is $5,000 for the entire year. Beraki confirmed that this is also the case for Sophomore Formal. Funding for SoCo and the FCC derives from the Yale College Council, which in turn receives funding from the Student Activities Fund. The ticket price, Beraki explained, was generated by the Office of Student Affairs with the intention of SoCo breaking even from the formal, rather than profiting from it.
“We’re at a very, very difficult impasse when we try to start planning for these things,” Heraty said. “All of our costs need to be facilitated by ticket costs. There’s no way around that fact, and that’s how it’s been done historically. I honestly wish that Yale would have paid for this, because I think it’s a historical tradition, and I wish they paid for it in the same way that they paid for the holiday dinner.”
Beraki said that she proposed to the Office of Student Affairs the possibility of ticket waivers for students for whom the price of the event posed a financial burden several times throughout the process. However, Beraki told the News “there was not a system in place” to facilitate the University covering the cost.
“Being an FGLI student, I completely understand how frustrating it can be to be constantly left out of institutional events because of financial barriers,” Beraki said. “As a result, SoCo decided to use our internal budget to cover as much of the cost as possible for over 100 students who requested waivers.”
The FCC, Heraty said, does not have funds to spare on ticket waivers for first years, since the organization still has two more major events planned before the end of the year.
According to Heraty, the University only informed the FCC that public health conditions would allow for a formal on March 15, so all planning for the event had been accomplished under the time constraints of the past two weeks.
Phebian Gray ’25 told the News that she was less troubled by the actual price of the ticket than she was by the fact that the events were ticketed to begin with, suggesting that Yale should more generously fund FCC and SoCo so that the burden of funding these events did not fall on students.
Joanna Ruiz ’25 agreed, adding that she knew many students, both on and off financial aid, for whom the fact that they were being charged for tickets to the event was a deterrent from attending. Ruiz herself said that the price of the ticket made her less likely to want to attend, noting that the $15 it would cost to go to her First Year Formal could also be used to purchase two meals.
“People talk about Yale having so much money and having the facilities to host all of these things for students and be able to provide for students who need support,” Achebe said. “When it’s time for Yale to
continue with a tradition, something that Yale is going to readily advertise and talk about, they’re not there. It’s very troubling for me.”
Achebe took issue with the fact that students were being charged to attend events held in a public University space, especially those framed as bonding opportunities for entire classes. While she acknowledged that students could simply decide not to attend the event, she worried that it could have the effect of dividing students who could comfortably afford the ticket price from those who could not.
Agreeing that the price of the event could be divisive, Ruiz said that she had been “holding out hope” for the University to offer ticket refunds for students on financial aid, but that this did not seem to be a likely possibility.
“Many low-income students like myself already do feel out of place at Yale, where the student body is disproportionately wealthy,” Zaharaa Altwaiij ’25 said. “The University needs to be more receptive to the cumulative stress that students on financial aid may feel, especially when it comes to social events that truly bring the student body together. Students should never have to miss out on the chance to connect with their classmates, so Yale should create a more equitable environment for all students, no matter their financial background.”
Commons reopened in September 2021 as part of the new Yale Schwarzman Center.