Yale Daily News

Due to pandemic-related travel approval delays, some students may receive their International Study Award stipends after their fees are due for non-Yale summer programs — which would require them to pay an amount that they might not be able to afford out of pocket.

Yale’s ISA program offers eligible first years, sophomores and juniors — those who are on financial aid — a stipend for one international summer experience. This year, however, the rollout process for disseminating these funds has been delayed, causing some students stress about financing their summer programs and potentially losing their spots.

“I can’t afford $10,000,” an affected student, who requested to remain anonymous for this article to protect their privacy, told the News. “And it’s good that Yale is giving us the ISA award, but I can’t afford it to begin with. The whole point of getting an ISA is because I don’t have that money. So even if they say that they can refund me, the only way that my parents could afford that is if they take out a loan.”

In an email to the News, Lindsay Lawton — senior associate director of fellowships at Yale’s Center for International and Professional Experience — said that funds usually start to be dispersed earlier in the year. In 2019, which was “the last time ISA operated at scale,” the awarding process began in April. 

This year, Lawton said that the University Financial Aid office will begin crediting students’ bursar accounts with their ISA stipends on April 29. Since the dispersal of funds is a continuous process, all funds are estimated to be made available by early June, but Lawton specifically noted that the University cannot guarantee that the money will be available before June. 

Another student, who also asked to remain anonymous for privacy, expressed frustration at the delay in receiving their stipend.

“My study abroad program is saying they can’t defer payment, and they’re not getting any money from Yale yet because I haven’t gotten my money,” the second student said. “And Yale says that they won’t distribute the ISA before early June. The larger issue is that Yale is expecting students to be able to pay any payments that are charged prior to the dispersal of funds through the ISA. It’s interesting because the ISA is for students who have financial need, so there’s no reason for them [the University] to expect that students have that money in their bank accounts … to pay this fee, even if they are going to be reimbursed later.” 

The timeline for sending out ISA funding was compressed this year due to uncertainties around international travel wrought by the pandemic, Lawton told the News. 

“This timeline was compressed a bit for 2022 because of changes to the Yale College Travel Policy and the need to review destinations before approving credit,” she wrote. “With the work of Bulldog Days mostly behind us, staff in CIPE and UFA [Undergraduate Financial Aid] are working as quickly as possible to process the hundreds of requests already submitted, and we expect to start disbursing those funds very soon! However, we cannot guarantee that any particular student’s funds will disburse before early June.”

Lawton said that payment for Yale Summer Session Programs Abroad, the University’s own study abroad program, is not due until the ISA funds are available.

In the case of external programs, however, Lawton explained that students required to pay in advance can write to the financial aid office to explore options. 

“We are aware that students may be asked by programs to pay deposits or other costs before funds disburse,” Lawton wrote. “In these cases, students can reach out to UFA by emailing isa.funding@yale.edu to request a letter from Financial Aid to their program explaining the nature and estimated amount of their ISA funding as assurance to the program that costs will be covered.”

But though the financial aid office may offer a letter to external programs, the first student told the News that their program instated a “hard deadline” for payment of May 15.

The second student concurred, noting that if they are unable to pay by the deadline, they may lose their spot.

“This is a large amount of money that is limiting to me and my family, which is why the ISA was such a big thing for me,” the second student said. “And it’s becoming an issue because I’m finding that there could be a risk — I mean, hopefully not — but there could be a risk that I can’t go abroad if I can’t pay this initial payment.”

The first student noted that this experience is particularly frustrating for first-generation, low-income students as it contributes to a sentiment of not belonging at Yale. 

“Having that be an expectation that I need to pay upfront and then just figure it out later is … making me feel a little alienated … like I’m not a part of it [Yale],” the student told the News.  

According to the ISA program website, students may receive an amount up to $15,400, proportional to their need and the cost of the program. The amount of aid that each student receives is the same percentage of their total program cost as the percentage that they receive of financial aid on their tuition.

Lawton also explained the typical process for accessing ISA funding.

“In order to request an ISA, students must first be admitted to a Yale Summer Session Program Abroad or approved for credit for a Non-Yale Summer Abroad program,” Lawton wrote. “Students then request their ISA through the MyCIPE system by May 1. ISA requests are sent on to Undergraduate Financial Aid, where their team calculates the award based on the program cost and the student’s financial need (aid percentage), and credits the funds to the student’s account. Students then request a refund through SIS and the funds are deposited to the student’s linked bank account.”

Students can also calculate the monetary value of their award in advance by utilizing the Student Information System.

Lawton recommended that students visit the ISA website with any questions about the program.

The Yale Center for International and Professional Experience is located at 55 Whitney Ave. 

ANIKA SETH
Anika Seth writes about STEM at Yale, including new programs and investments, and works on the production team. Originally from the D.C. Metro area, Anika is a first-year in Branford College double majoring in biomedical engineering and women's, gender and sexuality studies.
NORA HYLTON