Yale Announces Plan To Cut Tuition for Many

Yale University President Richard Levin said more families will qualify for aid.
Yale University President Richard Levin said more families will qualify for aid. (By Daniel Acker -- Bloomberg News)
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By Valerie Strauss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Yale University is slashing the cost of tuition by as much as 50 percent for some students, joining a list of elite schools seeking to make college more affordable for lower-, middle- and upper-middle-income families, officials said yesterday.

The move comes amid concern about the cost of college and calls by U.S. legislators for universities with healthy endowments to do more to ease the financial burden on families. Last month, Harvard University announced that it would cut costs by as much as 50 percent and eliminate student loans.

In a meeting with Washington Post reporters and editors yesterday, Yale President Richard Levin said that in the past 1 1/2 years, university officials had become "concerned that we were shortchanging" students by not providing more financial aid to needy families. He said increased returns on Yale's $22.5 billion endowment enabled the university to move forward with its plans.

Other educators applauded such efforts but said the effect on higher education in general would probably be small.

"I continue to maintain that what Yale and Harvard are doing is, yes, a big ripple, but in a very small pond," said Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University. "The vast majority of universities . . . simply do not have the endowment sizes to be competitive with these behemoths."

Levin disagreed with the contention that other schools would not be affected, saying that it could put pressure on state legislatures to give more to public institutions. And, he said, just because tuition-dependent schools have fewer resources is no reason for wealthier schools to sit back.

"If we don't spend our resources for a social good, we are criticized," he said. "If we do spend our resources for a social good, we are criticized. We are trying to strike a balance."

Levin said Yale, which is in New Haven, Conn., would increase the number of families that qualify for aid, increase its financial aid budget by more than $24 million, to more than $80 million annually, and hold increases in 2008-09 tuition and room and board charges to 2.2 percent, expected to be the level of consumer price inflation.

Like Harvard, Yale is also eliminating the need for students to take out loans, allowing all families that qualify for financial aid to receive it in grants, Levin said.

For the current academic year, undergraduate tuition, room and board total nearly $45,000. Under Yale's program, families with incomes of $60,000 to $120,000 will contribute 1 percent to 10 percent of the student's bill. Previously, a family with an income of $90,00 and assets of $150,000 would have paid $12,550 annually; now that family will pay $2,950, a Yale news release said.

Families with incomes of less than $60,000 will not be required to pay anything toward the cost of a student's education. For families with incomes of $120,000 to $200,000, costs will drop by 33 percent or more.

David Ward, president of the D.C-based nonprofit American Council on Education, said it was important to find a broad-based solution to ease the financial burden on students at all schools.

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