Yale said Monday that it would sharply increase financial aid for undergraduates, including those from families with annual incomes up to $200,000, in a bid to ease costs for a broad swath of students.
Yale and other universities with large endowments have been under pressure from Congress to spend more and reduce charges for students. Harvard announced a similar aid expansion in December, saying the policy would cut the cost of attending college to 10 percent of income for a typical family making $120,000 to $180,000 a year.
Last week, Yale said that it would increase its annual spending from its $22.5 billion endowment, freeing up money for more aid.
The president of Yale, Richard C. Levin, said Monday in an interview, “I hope this will send a strong message to people with incomes between $45,000 and $200,000, some of whom at the high end perceive our sticker price as very daunting, that Yale does offer help at that range.”
On average, students who receive financial aid will see their charges drop in half, Levin said. A family with two children in college, $180,000 in income and $200,000 in assets will see its Yale bill drop, to $11,650 from $22,300. Full tuition, room and board this year costs $45,000.
Students will still be expected to contribute in addition to parental payment — but the bill will drop to $2,500 next year, down from their $4,400 share of the $45,000 total. Despite other efforts to increase the aid and outreach to low- and middle-income students, Levin said, “we are still believed in many parts of the country to be inaccessible and too expensive.”
Yale said its changes, to take effect in the fall and apply to all undergraduates, would raise spending on undergraduate aid by $24 million, to more than $80 million. Yale also said it would limit the increase in tuition, room, and board next year to 2.2 percent, raising total costs to $46,000. In the last five years, the increases have ranged from 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, who has been pressing colleges and universities to spend more of their endowments, applauded Yale, saying, “Students and parents are the winners.”
But Grassley questioned why other colleges with endowments of more than $1 billion had not followed suit.
Other well-heeled colleges have also taken steps to assist low- and middle-income students by replacing loans with grants in aid packages.
Not everybody welcomes the trend. Critics say it could lead less-well-off colleges to reduce aid for lower-income students as they try to compete for upper-income students.
“We encourage colleges to fully fund the neediest students before extending financial aid pledges up the income scale,” said Robert Shireman, executive director of the Project on Student Debt, a group that focuses on financial aid.