Yale has sent me some facts about their new Freshman class that I found interesting. It tells us something about one of our prestige colleges, but raises some even more interesting questions.
Here are nine facts about the new freshman class:
1. There are 1,360 members of the Class of 2017, chosen from a record applicant pool of 29,610.
2. 55% come from public high schools.
3. 10% are international citizens, representing 49 countries.
4. Students come from all U.S. states and territories. Broken down by region, that’s 35.5% from the Northeast; 7.1% from the Mid-Atlantic states; 10.8% from the South; 12.5% from the Midwest; 4.6% from the Southwest; and 16.8% from the West. New York and California were well represented; each is the “home state” for 12% of the class.
5. 37.1% of the freshmen are U.S. citizens or permanent residents who identify themselves as students of color.
6. 12% will be the first individuals in their families to graduate from a four-year college or university.
7. Half of the incoming students are receiving financial aid, with an average grant amount of $40,800.
8. 12.1% are interested in majoring in one of Yale’s eight engineering majors — a 42% increase in the number of prospective engineers from the Class of 2011.
9. 18.9% are interested in majoring in one of Yale’s 33 humanities majors.
With only 4.6% of applicants admitted, Yale is certainly selective. A lot more so, fortunately, than when I applied 66 years ago. Of course some of those admitted may have chosen to go to Harvard instead.
Yale seems to be doing well at providing opportunity for social advancement. They have a needs-blind policy that says they will make up the difference between the total cost of a student’s education and what Yale figures his/her parents can afford to pay. The total cost is about $60,000 per year, including tuition, room, board, books, and incidental expenses. My guess is that the cut-off for aid is somewhere around an income of about $200,000/yr.
Half the students get aid and their average aid is two thirds the total cost. That does not include loans but may require a part-time university job valued at $2700.
This looks pretty impressive at first glance but note another
conclusion. Abut half the class doesn’t need aid, by Yale’s calculation, and 45% did not need to attend a public high school. No, I don’t think they were home schooled.
So it looks like about half the class comes from the upper 10% of the family income distribution and the other half from the lower 90%. It doesn’t sound as impressive expressed that way.
A suspicious mind would suspect that this is deliberate policy, but I’m not at all sure that’s true. One contributing factor could be the tendency to favor legacies in admissions, but another could be the simple fact that wealthy parents can provide significant advantages to their children.
A few nights ago I saw a TV interview in which Larry Summers described an admissions decision at Harvard he had observed. A student was favored because he had made himself fluent in Mandarin Chinese, among other things. Summers agreed with the decision but noted qualms because the student had had a language tutor each year in high school and had been able to spend two full summer vacations in China! Another example, true more for college students, is the policy of providing students with non-salaried internships. Nice for those who don’t need the money.
Am I being too hard on Yale? They are probably doing more for educational equality now than ever before. The real problem is the excessive inequality in incomes.