Vocational schools seek to reduce student debt

Yale Daily News

University President Peter Salovey announced in an email to the Yale community earlier this month that the university will focus on reducing the amount of debt held by many vocational school students.

In her October 14th email, Salovey highlighted the University’s various initiatives to “consolidate” financial aid to all students in need. He wrote that about 85% of the class of 2020 at Yale College graduated debt-free thanks to the college’s financial aid policies. In vocational schools, however, Salovey said there was more work to be done to reduce student debt. Affiliates of Yale Divinity School and Yale School for the Environment – both of which have maintained their annual tuition fee increases this year – spoke to the News about the impact of student debt and the efforts for the reduce.

“We need to do more to tackle the high levels of student debt graduating from some of our vocational schools,” Salovey wrote in the email. “I will focus particularly on raising funds for financial aid in the least profitable areas, such as public health, nursing, divinity, the environment and the arts.”

According to Yale Divinity School spokesperson Tom Krattenmaker, 56% of divinity students took out loans to pay for the program in fiscal 2019, and the average amount of debt among students who borrowed was of $ 58,805. Tuition fees at Divinity School have also increased from $ 25,440 in 2019-2020 to $ 25,950 in 2020-2021.

Yale Divinity School Associate Dean Vernice Randall DIV ’11 told the News that student debt is one of the biggest concerns in higher education and affects all theological schools in North America .

She added that high debt levels, combined with “relatively low” average starting salaries in theological professions, negatively impact the development of ministerial careers.

“There are many graduate degrees that come with the promise of ‘big pay’,” Randall wrote in a statement to the News. “Theological schools do not make this promise, especially to students entering parish ministry. “

Instead, Randall said the school remains firmly committed to raising money for scholarships and helping students manage their finances while in school. These initiatives include providing financial advice, adding a finance-related theology course to the curriculum, and offering budgeting tools through online platforms to students, according to Randall.

Currently, Divinity School’s financial aid funding comes from an annual alumni fund, scholarship endowment and unrestricted endowment funds, according to the senior director of Divinity School, Alumni engagement and development, Barbara Sabia.

Randall also added that she recognizes the impact of high debt levels among theology students on the students themselves, as well as on their families, the church and the world at large.

“There is a certain sense that, upon entering the profession we were in, doing that kind of monetary self-sacrifice and capping our earning potential was only part of the job,” said Daniel Miller DIV ’14. “I don’t think there were so many complaints [high levels of student debt] just because it was a lived reality.

Debt management is also one of the realities facing students at the Yale School of the Environment.

Yale School of the Environment executive director of strategic communications Paige Stein said 83 percent of the school’s master’s students receive financial aid. She added that doctoral students receive full funding for five years, which covers full tuition, health coverage and a stipend.

Asked about changes to the Yale School of the Environment’s financial aid policy to deal with high levels of student debt, Stein wrote that collecting scholarships remains an “ongoing priority” for the school development office.

The School of the Environment has increased its tuition fees to $ 44,875 for the 2020-21 school year, up $ 1,305 from the tuition fee of $ 43,570 for the 2019-2020 school year . Even so, Stein described new initiatives the school is taking to help students manage this increased cost.

“YSE gave scholarship equal to tuition increase to all students to keep tuition fees [paid by the students] stable this year, ”Stein wrote in an email to News.

Likewise, Krattenmaker told The News that Yale Divinity School aims to meet 100% of its students’ demonstrated tuition needs by the 2022-2023 academic year. He provided data showing that the gap between the school’s tuition fees and its standard financial aid program has narrowed over the past five years – the gap is currently $ 5,440.

But students often accumulate debts that are unrelated to their tuition fees. Miller said he received enough scholarships to cover Divinity School tuition, so the debt he had accumulated was tied to his living expenses.

“I needed the money to live,” Miller said. “I needed to pay rent. I needed to do the grocery shopping. I needed to go out with friends. I needed to visit my family, to get gasoline in the car. When I took out a loan, it wasn’t necessarily for education, but for a living. It’s a strange feeling, but it’s a necessity.

Miller added that Salovey’s announcement of a new focus on reducing debt levels among vocational school students is “a wonderful thing.”

Randall said Divinity School is committed to controlling and managing student debt. She said the school is aware of where the problem lies and the types of collaborative responses that will be needed to mitigate the negative impacts of theological student debt on the Divinity School community.

“[The University’s new focus on professional school student debt] gives people the ability to research the things they really want to do, rather than thinking they need to take something to pay off their debt fast, ”Miller said.

According to the most recent data from the Office of Institutional Research, the percentage of students receiving financial aid at each vocational school varies between 55% and 100%.

Julia Brown | [email protected]


Julia Brown currently covers Yale Law School, Yale School of Management, and other professional schools. She is a junior to Jonathan Edwards majoring in economics and mathematics and is originally from Princeton, New Jersey.

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