DiFonzo named director of undergraduate financial aid
Karensa “Kari” DiFonzo has been named the new director of undergraduate financial aid for Yale College, following a national search chaired by Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid.
Beginning Aug. 21, DiFonzo will oversee the Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid, which distributes more than $220 million in need-based financial aid annually and advises thousands of Yale College students and families on financing their education.
Since its creation in 2017, the Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid has become an integral part of Yale College. Dedicated undergraduate aid officers now offer drop-in meetings in a renovated space, schedule hundreds of virtual appointments with students and families, and support students experiencing unexpected financial hardships through Safety Net, an online funding request system. Over the past six years, the office’s budget has increased by 60% and the number of undergraduates receiving a need-based Yale scholarship has risen by more than 21%.
DiFonzo comes to Yale from Wellesley College, where she has served as director of student financial services since 2017. A 2007 graduate of Wellesley, she comes to Yale with 16 years of experience working in financial aid.
“Kari is a responsive and inclusive leader as well as an accomplished strategic thinker,” Quinlan said. “She is exceptionally well positioned to direct Yale’s extraordinary undergraduate financial aid program at a time when Yale College is larger and more socio-economically diverse than ever before.”
“The Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid is essential to the mission of Yale College,” said Yale College Dean Pericles Lewis. “Kari’s record of transformative leadership and sustained commitment to prioritizing the needs of students makes her a perfect fit for Yale’s diverse and supportive community.”
DiFonzo will join Alex Muro, senior associate director of financial aid, to form a highly experienced leadership team. Muro, who has 15 years of financial aid experience at Yale, has served as acting director of undergraduate financial aid since February. “I am tremendously grateful to Alex for his leadership during this critical period,” said Quinlan. “I also continue to appreciate the excellent work of the entire undergraduate financial aid team, who provide excellent and essential service to thousands of students and families.”
At Wellesley, DiFonzo oversaw a major office reorganization and introduced a student-oriented counseling model. With colleagues, she also established an enrollment operations group during the COVID-19 pandemic that brought together staff from the registrar’s office, academic advising, international study, residential life, and student financial services to ensure the continuation of student services. The collaboration has been so successful that its weekly meetings have continued three years later.
Raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, DiFonzo is a first-generation college student who credits Wellesley’s need-based financial aid program with making her college education possible.
“Financial aid provided me an opportunity to obtain a top-tier education. Early in my professional career, I realized my passion for providing other young adults the opportunity to access an affordable education,” she said.
DiFonzo’s commitment to sharing her knowledge is evident in her engagement with students, families, and other financial aid administrators. She has presented at dozens of conferences including the College Need Analysis Roundtable, Questbridge National College Admissions Conference, Collegeboard regional forum, and the Consortium on Financing Higher Education.
Quinlan thanked the members of the search committee: Nicole Archer, director of financial aid for the Yale School of Art; David Blackmon, university director of financial aid; Ryan Brinda ’24 of Benjamin Franklin College; Michael Chen ’23 of Branford College; Gina Costa, associate controller for finance and business operations; Vijayshree Erodula, associate director of information technology; Moira Poe, senior associate director of admissions; Joel Silverman, director of academic and educational affairs in Yale College; Becky Tynan, associate director of admissions; and Patrick Vaccaro, professor of chemistry in Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. He also extended thanks to Napier Executive Search for fielding a strong pool of applicants from across the country.