New Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid promotes clarity

A graphic depicting a calculator used to estimate the cost of college.

In the 18 months since the Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid was established as a dedicated center for Yale College students and their families, Director Scott Wallace Juedes and his staff have set two priorities above all others: affordability and transparency. In collaboration with campus partners, leaders in the Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid have created several new initiatives to reduce costs for many students while making the process of applying for and receiving aid easier and more intuitive.

Awarding need-based financial aid in a manner that’s equitable across a wide variety of families and circumstances is, by its nature, complicated,” said Wallace-Juedes. “But from a family’s perspective, the concerns are simple: ‘What costs should we expect?’ and ‘What are our options for paying those costs?’”

A new award letter for new students

With these concerns in mind, the Office of Financial Aid has initiated several changes to help students and parents understand their financial aid awards and their options for covering costs. One recent change involves how the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is presented in award letters. The EFC represents a family’s net cost after aid for one year at Yale — including billed expenses (tuition, room, and board) and unbilled expenses (books, travel expenses, laundry supplies, and other personal expenses).

The most important thing we want to emphasize when families see their net cost is options,” said Wallace-Juedes. “Every family will have their own strategy for meeting their specific costs. Rather than prescribe exactly how students and parents should divide their costs, our new award letter provides a suggested division with three parts – a parent share, a student share, and a student on-campus employment option.” These suggested divisions represent Yale’s personalized estimate of a parent’s ability to contribute and — although Yale does not require students to work — a standardized estimate of what a student could earn from paid work while enrolled. The new letter also makes clear that families can meet their costs with funds from many different sources. 

According to Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Jeremiah Quinlan, these and other modifications make Yale’s award letter stand out from those issued by other universities, which typically resemble an accountant’s ledger book. “For a recently admitted student, the excitement of getting in can quickly turn to dread or confusion if the first impression about financial aid isn’t clear and reassuring. I want every family to feel confident they can afford a Yale education and to know the staff at the Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid is ready to assist them every step of the way.”

Streamlining processes for returning students

While these changes were designed with recently-admitted students in mind, they will also benefit returning students, who will see the changes to their award letters this spring. In another effort to promote clarity, the Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid will begin issuing awards for returning students by March 1, a full three months ahead of the typical timeline. Wallace-Juedes explained that the change will give students more time to plan for the year ahead and provide more opportunities for financial aid officers to meet with families to discuss their options.

Earlier this year, Yale announced that international students on financial aid will not need to complete a financial aid application each year. A student’s expected family contribution will be evaluated and set for the first year at Yale and will remain the same for every year of undergraduate enrollment. If an international student's family experiences a significant change in their finances, they may request to have their award amount reevaluated, and if these changes demonstrate an increase in a family’s financial need, their reevaluated award will increase to meet it.

Expanded aid for Eli Whitney Students

More recently, Yale also announced an expansion of financial aid for Eli Whitney Students, nontraditional undergraduates who range in age from 25 to 65. Previously, need-based financial aid for these students was capped at their billed tuition charges. But beginning next year, students with qualifying levels of financial need will also receive a need-based housing scholarship equal to the cost of a standard Yale College room. All Eli Whitney students currently receive free weekday lunches in the residential colleges, but because they do not live on campus, the new housing scholarships will also allow them to defray the cost of off-campus living.

A long-term strategy for affordability and clarity  

This change complements more than three years of policy enhancements and initiatives generated by Provost Ben Polak’s Financial Aid Working Group, which regularly convenes senior Yale officials to connect with current students, members of the Yale College Council, and Yale’s financial aid professionals to review Yale’s financial aid policies. The group’s previous initiatives include $2,000 startup grants and hospitalization insurance coverage for first-year students with high levels of financial need and reduced or frozen estimates for the student share and student on-campus employment option.

Last January, the Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions launched the MyinTuition Quick Cost Estimator, which allows prospective students to estimate their Yale cost in three minutes. In the first year, more than 63,000 families have used the tool to get a personalized estimate of their Yale financial aid award by answering six simple questions. In December, the Offices of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid released a new video featuring Fernando Rojas ’19 and his parents, discussing the hard work, perseverance, and faith that enabled him to apply to Yale as a high school senior, and the need-based financial aid that has enabled Rojas to attend Yale without taking out any loans.

The average need-based scholarship for Yale College students receiving financial aid was more than $50,000 last year, and 86% of students in the Yale Class of 2018 graduated with no loan debt. For more than a decade Yale has not required parents earning less than $65,000 annually — with typical assets — to make any contribution toward the cost of a child’s education.

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