FAQs about financial aid and student borrowing in Yale College

Answers to frequently asked questions about financial aid and student borrowing in Yale College

Why does Yale provide financial aid to its students?

Yale is committed to an admissions process that does not consider a student’s ability to pay and a financial aid program that makes a Yale College education accessible to the most talented students from around the world, regardless of family income. Yale College’s financial aid program, like that of our peers, is based on two principles: a fair assessment of family need and a shared partnership between Yale and the student and his or her family in financing a Yale education.

Yale College is one of the small number of institutions that has the resources, thanks largely to the generosity of many generations of alumni, to assure that a Yale College education is not limited only to those whose families can afford the cost of attendance. The result of these policies and resources is a learning community that includes students from the widest possible range of backgrounds.

How is Yale doing in meeting this commitment?

Very well. Yale is one of the most affordable colleges in the country for families making less than $200,000 in annual income. It is significantly less expensive than a top public university, even for an in-state student. In 2013-2014, the average grant from Yale to students receiving financial aid was $41,250. Looked at from another angle, the median net price of Yale (the price that students actually pay for their education) for students receiving financial aid was $11,925 per year in 2013-2014.

Data collected from other highly selective, private liberal arts colleges and universities show that Yale’s average grant award is significantly higher than almost all of the schools in our peer group and that Yale’s average net price is nearly $5,000 less than that of the entire group. It is clear that Yale is a leader in the world of higher education in making an undergraduate education accessible and affordable to students and families.

What about debt and trends over time?

Eighty-four percent of Yale College students in the Class of 2014 graduated debt -free. Of the 16% graduating with some level of debt, the average cumulative indebtedness was $14,853. By comparison, 69% of all students graduating from public and private non-profit four-year colleges in 2013 carried student loan debt averaging $28,400.

Since 2008 Yale has not included loans in its financial aid awards, and the percentage of students receiving loans, and their average indebtedness at graduation, have decreased in recent years. In the Class of 2005, 43% of students graduated with debt and had an average debt load of $17,298 in inflation-adjusted 2014 dollars.

What about individual cases of unusual stress and hardship?

No system, however fair, is going to address completely every student’s individual or family situation. Some students will borrow significantly more than the average for any number of reasons regarding family expectations or student choices or other circumstances. Family and student financial circumstances also change over time, whether improving or deteriorating. So the financial aid office has a significant service to provide in helping students and families to explore their options and also to address changes in a family’s financial situation. We strive to do our best in both these areas.

How and how much are Yale students asked to contribute toward their Yale education?

Yale recognizes that freshmen need the most help in adjusting to the new demands of their schedules and their new way of life and for that reason the Student Self-Help expectation for freshman ($2850) is $500 less than for sophomore, juniors, and seniors ($3350). Using the average student wage rate from last semester, a Yale freshman would have to work just over 8 hours/week for 26 weeks to meet his or her expectation. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors would have to work about 9.5 hours/week to meet their expectation.

Students are also expected to contribute a set amount of their earnings during the summer. The opportunity for a student to work during the summer and contribute to the funding of his or her education is considered a resource a family has available to help meet its contribution to the student’s education. 

Does Yale consider its peer institutions when setting student contribution levels?

A student’s financial contribution to his or her education is presented in a similar fashion at peer institutions (Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and most others) with the “summer savings/student income contribution” shown as part of the family contribution and the “self-help” shown as part of the financial aid award.  Student effort levels, as well as other aspects of Yale’s financial aid policies, are reviewed annually, and include a comparison with the student effort levels of our peers. In the current year (2014-2015), Yale’s student effort level is lower than our competitors for freshmen but higher for upperclassmen. Yale looked closely at both the various concerns expressed by students in the YCC report as well as its peers’ student contribution levels when it set the self-help level and student income contribution for the next academic year.

Does the expected summer income contribution have an impact on a student’s summer opportunities?

It does in some cases. However, Yale has made significant efforts to ensure that all undergraduate students have the opportunity to go abroad, regardless of their financial need. Yale offers two financial assistance programs for students receiving financial aid who choose to pursue international study: the Year or Term Abroad, and the International Summer Award.

During the academic year, juniors and second-semester sophomores in any academic major may participate in a Yale Year or Term Abroad. Students with approved plans who are receiving financial aid from Yale are eligible for aid while they are abroad, the amount of which is based on need. Freshmen, sophomores, and juniors receiving Yale financial aid may participate in the International Summer Award (ISA) program, which provides a stipend for one summer experience abroad.

In 2014, 421 undergraduate students were awarded more than $3.4 million in ISA funding. These funds were offered in addition to the more than $4.5 million in fellowship funding awarded to 994 undergraduates for internships, study abroad, and research projects. In the last academic year, 68% of students who were awarded an ISA had Yale Financial Aid Awards covering 80%-100% of their cost of attendance. 

What about student employment?

All students receiving financial aid are expected to make a financial contribution towards their education. How do students meet this contribution?  The most common way is to work on-campus during each academic semester. Job earnings are paid directly to the student and may be used to meet whatever expenses a student chooses. Most students use their earnings to cover travel expenses to and from campus, and books and materials for classes.

How do students get work on campus?

The Office of Student Employment provides what we believe to be a comprehensive, easy-to-navigate student job-listing site for students at yalestudentjobs.org. Students can browse hundreds of job listings every semester and apply for a job in just a few minutes. A wide range of positions is available — master’s aide in a residential college, laboratory assistant, art gallery tour guide, computer support specialist, or assistant in an academic department, among many others.

Even in the face of cutbacks in recent years in federal support for work-study programs nationwide, Yale remains committed to providing jobs for its students, especially those receiving financial aid. The Office of Student Employment mandates that employers can only hire students receiving financial aid in the first two weeks of the semester and, more recently, the Provost’s Office changed its policies in the funding of student jobs to incentivize employers to hire students with financial need.

Student Employment also works with hiring managers throughout the university to help them understand that jobs are only part of the Yale College experience. As opposed to off-campus work, on-campus employers are encouraged to be flexible with student academic deadlines and to understand that employment can be a third priority behind academics and extracurricular involvement. For many students, a job on campus can be a very integral and fulfilling part of the Yale College experience and a way to gain valuable skills.

How much are students paid?

Minimum wage for on-campus student jobs is $12 an hour. Jobs with greater levels of responsibility pay more, up to $14 an hour, and some departments request an exception to pay their student employees more than $14 an hour. Students who remain in a job are normally paid a bit more each year. Last semester, the average hourly wage earned by a Yale College student on financial aid for an on-campus job was $13.32.

How many job openings are available?

Last semester, 2,591 Yale College students worked more than 197,000 hours and earned more than $2.6 million in over 8,255 jobs. Over 1,500 distinct positions (in which multiple students could be hired) were posted through Student Employment. University-wide statistics show that the number of jobs posted is virtually identical for the fall of 2013 and the fall of 2014. There were an average of 232 jobs posted on any given day, and never fewer than 74 open positions.  A snapshot of the Student Employment database on Jan. 22, 2015, almost two full weeks into the semester, showed there were 488 open positions available for student application in various departments. This data does not include positions that are created and not posted because a department knows whom it wants to hire or rehire.

How many hours do students typically work on campus?

In the fall semester of 2014, 2,591 Yale College students worked at on-campus jobs for more than 197,000 hours. Fifty seven percent of students receiving financial aid (1,595) worked an on-campus job. On average, these students worked 4.8 hours/week. Thirty-eight percent of students not receiving financial aid (996) worked an on-campus job. On average, they worked 3.4 hours per week.

What is the role of the endowment in Yale’s financial aid?

The endowment makes possible Yale’s undergraduate financial aid but it is not a bank account that can be drawn on at will. It is a large and diversified set of assets made up of many smaller funds. The possible uses of most of these funds was restricted by the donors at the time their gift was made to the university. When the endowment grows, all those smaller funds grow, but the income from the funds can be used only for what it is designated.  While the growth of the endowment makes much possible in many areas, including financial aid, its funds are restricted for use as donors intended.

Where does undergraduate financial aid stand among Yale’s priorities?

Undergraduate financial aid is among Yale’s most important priorities, but it is not its only priority. Other priorities include (but are not restricted to) the strength of the faculty, support for Yale’s graduate and professional schools and their students and faculty, wages and benefits for all who work at the university, enhancements to the Yale Library and to all new technology, upkeep and restoration of facilities, and, of course, a commitment to Yale’s incomparable residential college system.



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