Yale’s low-income student population grows

The number of Pell Grant recipients at Yale increased by 50% between the 2016 and 2020 academic years, outpacing nationwide enrollment of low-income students.
Students on Cross Campus

The American Talent Initiative (ATI), a national alliance of leading colleges and universities, announced this week that it is on track to reach its goal of enrolling 50,000 additional low-income students at colleges and universities with the highest graduation rates, including Yale, by 2025.

A new report ATI released Feb. 19 shows that in 2017-2018 U.S. colleges and universities with graduation rates of 70% or higher enrolled 20,696 more students who qualified for Pell grants than they did in 2015-2016, the year before the initiative began. Pell grants are a federal need-based program for low-income students.

The 20,696 students represent a 4% increase in the total number of Pell recipients attending these schools. During the same period, the total number of Pell recipients at Yale increased 25%.

More recent data shows a 50% increase in this population at Yale between 2015 and 2016 and 2019 and 2020. Approximately one in every five first-year and sophomore students in Yale College currently qualify for a Pell grant.

Yale joined ATI in 2016 as one of 30 founding members. The alliance has since grown to 128 members and now includes flagship state universities, prominent liberal arts colleges, and every member of the Ivy League.

A previous ATI report lauded Yale for setting an ambitious goal of enrolling 225 more Pell grant recipients by 2020-2021. Yale has already far surpassed that goal: There are now more than 350 additional Pell grant recipients currently enrolled in Yale College than there were in 2015-2016.

Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid, said Yale’s strategy for increasing the number of students from low-income backgrounds has been comprehensive, and includes new outreach initiatives, financial aid policies, and tools to assist members of the Admissions Committee when making admissions decisions.

Since becoming dean in 2013, I have made increasing socio-economic diversity one of my top priorities,” Quinlan said. “The opening of Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray Colleges have enabled us to make a Yale education accessible to hundreds more students, and I am pleased that the Yale student body includes a more diverse collection of experiences, perspectives, backgrounds, and identities than ever before.”  

In 2018, Yale launched the MyinTuition Quick Cost Estimator, an online calculator that provides personalized estimates of families’ Yale cost in less than three minutes. In its first year, the tool generated 63,000 estimates, including more than 10,000 estimates for students who would be eligible for Pell grants.

Each spring the Admissions Office sends a series of targeted mailings to high-achieving students living in low-income neighborhoods. Since Yale’s mailing program began, applications from targeted census tracts have increased by more than 100%.

Yale’s financial aid policies have also expanded to become even more generous, meeting 100% of every family’s financial need without requiring loans. Yale recently announced that families with incomes below $75,000 and typical assets will qualify for financial aid awards with a “$0 parent share.” These awards cover the full cost of tuition, on-campus housing, the meal plan, and health insurance with scholarship grants.

Reflecting on this progress, Yale President Peter Salovey wrote: “I am thankful that Yale’s financial aid policies and practices allow us to attract the very best students, from all backgrounds, who will make great contributions to our nation and our world. Yale has long been committed to being at the forefront of access and affordability. Since joining other leading universities through ATI, we have learned from one another and worked together to emphasize the importance of education to the future of this country.”

ATI is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies and managed by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program and Ithaka S+R. The initiative is also funded by the Gray Foundation and the Jeffrey H. and Shari L. Aronson Family Foundation.

The ATI mission remains important because the nation needs talent from all backgrounds to thrive,” said Catharine Bond Hill, managing director at Ithaka S+R, which authored the report. “We are excited to share what we’ve learned from the colleges and universities featured in this year’s report, and we look forward to sharing new insights as schools incorporate more of these proven strategies.”

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Media Contact

Karen N. Peart: karen.peart@yale.edu, 203-980-2222