February 20, 2008
Posted by Sam Jackson
There has been a 14 percent decrease in the number of Yale students getting Pell grants in the last 8 years, according to Pell Institute senior scholar Tom Mortenson study, reports the Yale Daily News. Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzell disagreed by citing more limited data which statistics professors at Yale argued were statistically invalid. Instead, it seems he prefers to somewhat cherry pick his data, looking at families % with less than $60,000 a year. Quotes from the article, emphasis mine:
Mortenson said he was especially concerned about the 14-percent drop in Pell students at Yale in the past eight years, given that the percentage of Pell students at Harvard University increased by 53 percent over the same time period, according to his Dec. 2007 analysis.As the percentage of low-income children in the K-12 school system increases, Mortenson said, Yale has a responsibility to help educate these students — a responsibility that it is not meeting.
“The real question is, ‘Who is trying to deal with this huge demographic tide, and who isn’t?’” Mortenson said. “As I look at Harvard’s data, I say Harvard is, and as I look at Yale’s data, I say Yale isn’t.”
Yale’s recent announcement of an unprecedented increase in undergraduate financial aid did not change his analysis.
Mortenson called Yale’s new financial-aid initiative — which dramatically reduces the expected parental contribution from families making up to $200,000 a year and eliminates the need for student loans — a mere “public-relations gesture.”
So... there's failure all around, but Yale is especially lagging. Brenzel does reasonably point out that some of Harvard's success with Pell grant numbers could just be that Harvard has a better ability to get them to come, rather than special recruitment efforts; Harvard's yields are certainly very impressive in general and a Harvard admissions letter can be pretty sticky. But that just means that Yale needs to work harder and reach out more to low income students. This might not be the fault only of the admissions office, it could be that they are not able to effectively allocate their resources to do so without compromising other parts of their mission which are valued more. Luckily, here at Yale... they don't really have to choose! The university has the resources needed to make significant change here, and if it isn't moving up the charts on this, it can't point at Harvard or anyone else and try to avoid blame.
Harvard may not be doing enough, but they're at least doing better than us--and they're improving.
Other studies have also found Yale lagging behind Harvard in its numbers of Pell grant students. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education published a study in the fall showing that only 9.4 percent of Yale College students receive Pell grants, compared to 12 percent of Harvard undergraduates.
Of the 10 wealthiest American universities, the study reported, only Harvard had increased the percentage of Pell grant recipients from 2004 to 2006, from 9.4 percent to 11.9 percent.
But the Journal’s managing editor, Bruce Slater, declined to call Harvard’s increase progress.
“The gains at Harvard are not all that spectacular to begin with,” Slater said. “Although Harvard has gone up and Yale has not, I don’t think that’s significant.”
So, where's the push on this? Yale is, once again, dropping the ball--just like they did with the financial aid policy which they were finally pushed into making after Harvard beat them to it. Where is all the innovation? Jeremiah Quinlan, Brenzel's director of outreach and recruitment, could make an MIT-style blogging site if only someone would let him (and give him money, staff, and time), maybe? That would be a good transformative start--a ton of transparency for an admissions office in the Ivy League. Just waiting for a nice move--something good to write about, a step in the right direction.
And no, don't even get me started on the promise of the residential college expansion "to bring in new students."