story | Dion Ho, Senior Writer

photo | Ruchel Phua, Staff Photographer

Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs) and acting Dean of Students, Joanne Roberts, has called for a campus-wide assessment of financial assistance for student programmes. One of her main concerns is that the current system is too decentralized. This assessment, conducted by Student Services, commenced at the end of October and is currently ongoing.

Financial assistance is separate from the annual financial aid provided by the Admissions & Financial Aid department. While financial aid primarily covers residential and tuition fees, financial assistance covers a vast range of student programmes under a multitude of Yale-NUS College administrators across different departments.

The Centre for International & Professional Experience (CIPE) offers financial assistance for Semester Study Abroad, Yale Summer Study, Week 7, Learning Across Boundary (LAB) projects, internships, and some of their research and global citizenship programs. Other examples of financial assistance include teaching faculty assisting students with the purchase of textbooks, and the Dean of Students office (DoS) reducing co-pay amounts for students with financial difficulty.

Currently, there is no campus-wide guideline on when financial assistance should be provided. Nevertheless, CIPE stated that they provide “need-based financial assistance for those students with demonstrated financial need who, without this funding, would not be able to participate in their programmes”.

A Decentralized Overall System

Currently, different Yale-NUS administrators independently manage the requests for financial assistance for their programs, though there may be intra-departmental coordination. As a result, students that seek financial assistance for a program have to approach the specific administrators in charge. Those that participate in multiple programs often have to submit multiple financial assistance applications.

Ms. Roberts expressed her concern that the tedious process of applying numerous times for financial assistance is a heavy mental load for students with financial difficulties, especially since they need to share private details about their lives each time. She was concerned that  the stress of having to submit multiple applications may dissuade them from pursuing various opportunities.

“Students have to advocate [for themselves], and if students have any inequity in that capacity or willingness to advocate for themselves, then they end up with an inequity in access,” she said.

Moreover, there is no campus-wide criteria for what constitutes financial need. “[The program administrators] each have a different way by which they [decide on financial assistance matters],” said Ms. Roberts. In addition, these administrators have minimal to no access to the financial information of each student held by the Admissions & Financial Aid department. Therefore, Ms. Roberts said that inconsistency is one of her primary concerns with the current system of financial assistance.

Ms. Roberts said that without having seen the results of the assessment, her view is that the financial assistance system should be centralized. Nonetheless, she said that “if students tell me they do not want [the financial assistance system] centralized, then maybe not.”

CIPE’s Financial Assistance System

While the overall system is decentralized, the different Yale-NUS departments may have chosen to coordinate or even centralise financial assistance decisions within themselves. CIPE, for example, has a committee of staff members which makes decisions on financial assistance using a set of guiding principles.

CIPE shared with The Octant their guiding principles for financial assistance when students apply for a study abroad program. In summary, CIPE provides financial assistance for “expenses directly related to participation in the [program] and that are additional to the kinds of expenses [the students] would have to cover at Yale-NUS.” Through financial assistance, CIPE aims to let students participate in the programs that they have been admitted to, and in general “take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.” Nonetheless, CIPE “wants all students who are able to do so to contribute to their expenses” or otherwise “demonstrate their own investment in their experience.”

For each CIPE program, there is also a standardized financial assistance application process. Students who apply for financial assistance for Week 7 and LABs complete an online application form outlining their anticipated expenses. For Semester Study Abroad and Yale Summer Study programs, students must submit a budget, broken down into categories for housing, meals, airfare, and other necessary expenses. In both cases, students must declare the amount they or their family can contribute, as well as any Yale-NUS or external scholarship funds they have.

Nevertheless, Dean of International & Professional Experience, Trisha Craig, said, “At CIPE, our preference would be to centralize financial assistance decisions at the College. This would allow a standard set of criteria to be used, which would allow students to better plan and budget for the kind of experiences they hope to have.”

Moving Forward

Senior Associate Director Karla Fraser, who is conducting the campus-wide assessment of financial assistance in Yale-NUS, said that she plans to have conversations with individuals from CIPE, DoS, the Dean of Faculty office, the Financial Aid department, the Center for Teaching and Learning, and Student Government. She also plans to have conversations with the Rectors, Associate Deans and focus groups of selected students.

Though Ms. Fraser declined to share the specifics of the questions that she will ask, she said that “the purpose of the campus assessment is to learn what are the current concerns and operations.”

Ms. Fraser said that the assessment will likely take a substantial amount of time to complete given its large scope.

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