Understanding the Student Effort

When building a financial aid award, the Yale Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid evaluates a family’s ability to contribute toward the Estimated Cost of Attendance, including tuition, room, board, books, personal expenses, and travel expenses. This evaluation includes a family’s income and assets, as well as a standardized estimate of a student’s ability to contribute financially while enrolled at Yale. This estimate is known as the Student Effort. First-year students and students from families with the greatest financial need have reduced Student Effort amounts; otherwise, the Student Effort is the same for all students receiving financial aid from Yale.

The Student Effort is an option available to students and their families to meet some or all of their estimated Net Cost—the difference between the Estimated Cost of Attendance and a student’s total scholarship funds from Yale and other sources. Several factors may reduce or eliminate the Student Effort, and students and families always have multiple options for meeting their estimated Net Cost.

The Student Effort occasionally causes confusion. To help students and families understand how the Student Effort works and why it is included as part of Yale’s need-based financial aid awards, the Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid has compiled the language below, along with shorter Q&As about Student Effort on our FAQ page. If you have additional questions, please contact the office.

Components and levels
Options to meet Net Cost
Yale’s financial aid philosophy and the Student Effort
Responding to unique challenges and unexpected changes in financial status
Yale’s student loan policies
Recent efforts to increase affordability via the Student Effort

Components and levels

The Student Effort consists of two amounts: the Student Summer Income Contribution and Student Employment. The Student Summer Income Contribution represents Yale’s estimate of what a student could earn through summer employment. Student Employment represents Yale’s estimate of what a student could earn through term-time employment.

Yale recognizes that first-year students should prioritize their course schedules and general orientation to Yale over finding a job, so the Student Effort is lower for first-year students than for upper-level students. Yale also recognizes that students from families with especially high financial need often must contribute financially toward family expenses beyond the cost of their education. These students have a reduced Student Summer Income Contribution in the upper-level years.

Standard Student Effort 2017–18 First-year Students Upper-level Students
student summer income contribution $1,600 $2,600
student employment $2,850 $3,350
Total Annual Student Effort $4,450 $5,950
High-need-family Student Effort 2017–18 First-year Students Upper-level Students
student summer income contribution $1,600 $1,700
student employment $2,850 $3,350
Total Annual Student Effort $4,450 $5,050

Students from high-need families also receive a $2,000 “start-up fund” in their first year and a $600 allowance in each subsequent year to help cover one-time costs such as a computer and winter clothing.

The amounts outlined above are Yale’s suggestion for what a student should contribute toward the Estimated Cost of Attendance. They are used to calculate components and amounts of the Yale Financial Aid Award, including the Yale Scholarship, but students will not see Student Summer Income Contribution or Student Employment on a Yale bill.

Options to meet Net Cost

The Student Effort is one way students and families meet their Net Cost, but every student has multiple options available. Many students also find that their books, personal expenses, and travel expenses are less than Yale’s estimates. This reduces students’ Net Cost and the amount they need to contribute through Student Effort. Most students will find that only a small amount of billed expenses (tuition and fees, room, board) are paid with funds earned through the Student Effort. Most of the Student Effort is used to cover unbilled expenses associated with being a full-time student, including course books and personal expenses like laundry.

Students receiving financial aid are also able to study abroad during the academic year or the summer. For students completing coursework abroad during the academic year, Yale calculates a need-based scholarship based on the actual costs of the study abroad program. Yale is also one of only a few universities anywhere to enable a summer abroad for students on financial aid through its International Summer Award (ISA). The ISA provides up to $12,500 for students on financial aid to participate in a Yale-facilitated international experience. The exact amount of the ISA will depend on the cost of a student’s program and a student’s financial need.

On-campus and summer work

To meet the full estimated Student Effort through only term-time and summer employment, a student would expect to work 8–10 hours per week while on campus and earn $1,600 before their first-year and $2,600 before subsequent academic years through summer employment.

Yale offers ample opportunity for students to work 8–10 hours per week in many interesting jobs, some of which provide excellent pre-professional training for a student’s future career. While students on aid are always accommodated, nearly 70% of those students not on aid also choose to take advantage of Yale’s attractive employment opportunities and opt to work on campus while enrolled. Every student seeking an on-campus job can find one, and every year there are student jobs that go unfilled. The Yale administration is confident that in most cases on-campus and summer work can be arranged so it does not detract significantly from other Yale experiences and opportunities.

Outside scholarship funds

Students may also meet Student Effort with funds from outside scholarship agencies. Unlike many other universities, Yale allows outside merit-scholarship funds to reduce or eliminate the Student Effort, dollar for dollar. If a student’s total scholarship funds from Yale and outside sources exceed the total billed expenses, the student may request a refund and use it to cover the cost of books and personal expenses. For more information, read the policies on outside scholarships.

Loans

Yale’s financial aid policies have been crafted to ensure that every Yale Financial Aid Award meets 100% of a family’s Demonstrated Financial Need without requiring that student or family to take out loans. Some students and families, however, may prefer to take advantage of their eligibility for student loans to cover some or all of their Net Cost, including some or all of the Student Effort. Although Yale does not package loans as part of the initial aid award that meets a family’s Demonstrated Financial Need, the officers at the Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid can work with students and families to advise them on the best options for financing some or all of their family contribution with loans. For a variety of reasons, a modest loan may be a very good choice for a student or family.

Yale’s financial aid philosophy and the Student Effort

Yale’s undergraduate financial aid program, like that of virtually every other American college or university offering need-based aid, is based on the principle that paying for a college education should be a partnership between students, their families, and the University. In choosing to attend Yale, students choose to invest in their own education and future. Yale offers admission to students carefully and with purpose, and then invests in those students with financial aid. Yale asks that students and families invest in this education as well. The opportunity for a student to work and contribute to the funding of his or her education is considered part of this investment: a resource a family has available to help meet its contribution to a student’s education.

Yale spent nearly $130 million in the 2016–2017 academic year on scholarship aid for Yale College students, with an average annual need-based scholarship of more than $47,000 per student. Income from Yale’s endowment supports just over half of the institutional scholarships given to undergraduates. The endowment is made up of hundreds of smaller funds, many with unbreakable indentures. To sustain Yale’s financial aid while meeting the other critical needs of the University, Yale asks for an investment from undergraduates and their families. These contributions leave a vast majority of students without debt when they graduate.

While undergraduate financial aid is among the University’s most important priorities, 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 Library and to all new technology, upkeep and restoration of facilities, and a commitment to Yale’s residential college system.

Responding to unique challenges and unexpected changes in financial status

Yale’s Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid is often the first place a student or parent will turn when an unexpected financial hardship or unique financial challenge arises. Fortunately, the process of awarding financial aid, like the admissions process, is holistic. Financial aid officers have a significant service to provide in helping students and families to address changes in a family’s financial situation and to explore their options. Financial aid officers will always listen and seek to understand the unique contours of a family’s situation and then provide guidance about solutions that will keep the student enrolled at Yale and on a path toward graduation.

No system, however fair, is going to address completely every student’s or family’s unique financial challenges. Some students will find that the most viable solution available involves borrowing more than average. This can be the case for a number of reasons, including family expectations, student choices, or other circumstances. Family and student financial circumstances also change over time, whether improving or deteriorating, which can have the effect of increasing or decreasing the level of aid a student receives. In all cases where a student or family is facing a unique financial challenge or an unexpected change in financial status, the best course of action is to call or visit the Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid.

Yale’s student loan policies

Yale’s Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid is committed to providing every family that demonstrates financial need with an award that meets their full need with a combination of scholarship funds and an affordable financial contribution from parent and student income and assets. Yale’s initial aid packages do not include any loans; every student and family is provided a viable option to pursue a Yale education without taking on any loan debt. This is what is meant by the statement “Yale meets 100% of demonstrated financial need for all students without loans.”

Yale’s policy stands in contrast to the policies of many other American colleges and universities that provide need-based financial aid and meet 100% of demonstrated financial need, but include thousands of dollars in student loans as a means of meeting that demonstrated financial need. Other institutions provide need-based financial aid but cannot meet 100% of demonstrated financial need, even when relying on students and families to maximize their eligibility for federal loans.

Yale’s policies, while extraordinary among higher education institutions, do not imply that no student or parent will ever choose to take out a loan. Every student’s and family’s situation is unique, and in some circumstances a modest loan may be a very sensible option. Yale students enjoy remarkable success as professionals following graduation, which makes repaying a modest loan a very reasonable alternative.

Most students, whether they receive need-based financial aid or not, will never need to take out a loan. Indeed, 85% of the graduates in the Class of 2016 left Yale with no student loan debt. Those who did take out student loans included a combination of students receiving need-based financial aid and students from families with no demonstrated financial need. Their average debt level was approximately $15,000. The College Board reports that 61% of recent four-year college graduates nationally completed their degrees with student loan debt, with an average indebtedness per borrower of approximately $28,100.

Recent efforts to increase affordability via the Student Effort

Yale has a proud tradition of prioritizing affordability and accessibility. In 1963 Yale became the first American research university to admit domestic students without regard to their ability to pay. In 2000 Yale became one of the first American universities to extend a need-blind admissions policy and need-based financial aid policy to all students regardless of citizenship or immigration status.

Yale has continually worked to ensure that its financial aid policies continue to make a Yale education affordable and accessible for everyone. In recent years, these efforts have focused on the Student Effort, with an emphasis on reducing financial expectations for students from families with the greatest financial need.

In 2015 Yale’s Provost convened a group that included the Provost, the Deputy Provost, the Dean of Yale College, the Dean of Admissions, the University Director of Financial Aid, the Vice President for Finance, the Assistant Vice President for Strategic Analysis and Institutional Research, and the Director of Institutional Research to review Yale’s financial aid policies, including Student Effort levels.

The group considered several options and recommended a number of specific changes, which Yale’s President and Board of Directors approved. The changes included:

  • Frozen or reduced Student Effort: The Student Summer Income Contribution figure for incoming first-year students was frozen at $1,600, and for upper-level students it was reduced from $3,050 to $2,600, where it has been maintained for two years. International students receiving financial aid continue to be exempt from the Student Summer Income Contribution.
     
    The Student Employment figure was frozen for first-year students ($2,850) and upper-level students ($3,350), where it has been maintained for two years.
     
  • Reduced Student Effort and additional grants for students with highest financial need: Beginning in 2016 Yale reduced the Student Effort figures for upper-level students with the highest level of financial need (defined as students with financial aid awards that include a $0 Parent Contribution). These students’ Summer Income Contribution in upper-level years is set at $1,700 instead of $2,600. Approximately 20% of upper-level students receiving financial aid qualify for this reduced Student Effort level.
     
    Beginning in the fall of 2017, all incoming first-year students with the highest level of financial need also receive a $2,000 “start-up grant” to assist with one-time expenses such as a computer or winter clothing, and a $600 supplemental grant in each subsequent year to assist with ongoing expenses. More than 25% of first-year students receiving financial aid qualified for a start-up grant.

These policy changes represented an investment of more than $3 million to reduce the Student Effort for students receiving financial aid. As a result of these changes, the total Student Effort for a student receiving financial aid is $1350 lower over four years than under previous policies. For students with the highest level of financial need, the Student Effort is $4,050 lower than under previous policies. Not adjusting for inflation, the Student Summer Income Contribution is currently at its lowest level since 2009.