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Laying Down The Law… On The Results Of Our 2015-2016 Cost of Living Survey

Every year I write a blog post with the outcome of the COL survey and I am always trying to think of a new way to deliver these results.  For this year I decided to focus on something near and dear to all of you… the “Law” (or rather the law behind “why” we do the survey).

The Cost of Attendance (aka “student budget”) that is the basis of our financial aid award system is determined by the Higher Education Act of 1965  (Sec. 472 ). And while that law specifically details what types of costs are and are not allowed to be included in the Cost of Attendance, it puts the onus on the school to determine the “appropriate and reasonable” amounts for each cost. The Act specifies that:

  • You can include an “allowance” for room and board for those living off campus but it “must be based on reasonable expenses for the student’s room and board “
  •  An allowance can also be included for “books, supplies, transportation and miscellaneous personal expenses”.  And again it’s vaguely quantified as a “reasonable amount” as determined by the school.

The challenge of the Act is that it then dictates that “students must be awarded on the basis of a Cost of Attendance comprised of allowable costs assessed all students carrying the same academic workload. “. You need to use a common Cost of Attendance for every student in the same degree program in determining aid.   In other words, there cannot be individual budgets based on each student’s actual costs incurred or on lifestyle choices students may make.

So the annual survey is born out of our need to judiciously establish that level of “appropriate and reasonable” for room and board, transportation and book expenses and then calculate “average costs” that we feel can be applied to all students.

Here is what we learned from this year’s survey:

  • First off, we had an excellent response rate of almost 40% of all JDs and Graduate students. So the data collected is from a good representative sampling of students. Thank you to all who took the time to complete the survey.
  • As in past years, the vast majority of students choose to live in New Haven (97%) with 61% indicating they chose to live in “downtown” New Haven followed by 26% in East Rock.
  • We saw an uptick in the number of students living alone versus living with a roommate. And that trend increased in all JD classes (1Ls-3Ls).

Living Situation Chart 2It’s what drove us to actually do a short supplemental survey targeted to anyone who was living alone to understand this choice better.  The most wide spread answers as to “why” people were living alone were :  the need for personal space to study/work, the inconvenience/ challenge of sharing space and a desire for independence/freedom.  All valid personal reasons for making this choice- but a recognized “choice” (not necessity) none the less.

Living Alone Chart

Should additional financial aid be allocated to support that personal choice?  That’s a tough judgment to make given that by law the budget must be “reasonable” and apply across the board to all students in the same degree program.

But what concerns me most is the long term cost of that choice.   Based on the average inclusive monthly living costs (more detail on that later) here is the comparison between all the living arrangements.

COL 15 16 Chart 4So let’s look at it this way… monthly difference between living alone ($1,697) vs. living with two or more roommates ($1,272) is $425/month.  For the nine month academic year that’s $3,825 or for a three year JD degree it’s $11,475.   If you’re paying for that higher cost by  borrowing Grad Plus loans then you’ve got interest building on that $11,475 so that by the time it goes into repayment it’s now… $15,000.  If you go on a 10 year repayment plan then ultimately (with interest) you are paying off a balance of $20,899 or (worse) on a 25 year plan $31,805.  That’s what choosing to live alone is actually costing you- and it’s a pretty high price for solitude.

The key data from the survey is the average cost per month calculation. We “bundle” the responses to several of the questions to come up with that average. For 2015-2016 it came out to:

COL 2015 2016 Average Costs

That $15,435 is a 5% increase over last year’s average of $14,679. But it’s still well below the $17,000 that we have been budgeting for living expenses.

Other takeaways from the survey data:

  •  40% of you continue to purchase food “out” or from the YLS Dining Hall. I know for the sake of convenience and your busy schedules that’s the easiest options but cannot stress enough how making a couple of meal per week at home or brown bagging your lunch each day can save you considerable dollars.
  • Average annual cost for books was $782- so the $1,100 we budget should support that.
  • Average cost of professional clothes increased by 3% to $673 per year.  So our $500 allotment for the COAP eligible suit loan falls a little short there and will be examined.
  • 54% of you indicated you “keep a budget”. I love hearing that but wish we could have seen a significant bump up in that number this year.  Again if you have any questions on setting up a budget, need a good Excel template to follow, want to know what aps are good to use etc., come by our office.
  • Several surveys cited that the YLS living allocation was less than other Yale Graduate Schools. In actuality, YLS has historically been and continues to be the second highest allocation behind SOM.
  • When we asked you to identify any other “ongoing expenses” several people cited support they provide parents or other family members.  And while I empathize with your obligation to help and care for your family, financial aid and the student budget are, again by law, meant to support the student only. But if you have a challenging family situation I absolutely encourage you to come discuss it with me so that we can see what other options (within regulations) might help you.
  • Pets= $$$$$. But finally an excuse to put their picture in a blog post!! L to R Buffer, Del and Spats
    Pets= $$$$$. But finally an excuse to put their picture in a blog post!! L to R Buffer, Del and Spats

    Also  in the “ongoing expenses” many of you cited the costs of keeping your pets (specifically a significant number of cat owners).   I completely get this one having spent a near fortune on my three  cats on veterinary bills, cat food and, of course, enabling their catnip “habit”.   As an animal lover, if it were up to me, I would classify them as “dependents” but again based on those federal regulations- no such luck for a student budget.

So what does it all mean for you?  For the 2016-2017 academic year we are going to maintain a book allowance of $1,100 and a general living allowance of $17,000 (particularly since based on the average monthly cost that would still grant a $1,565 buffer between the $15,435 average per year vs. the $17,000 presently allocated). That buffer is there to support incidentals, household expenses, higher cost travel and emergencies that many of you cited in the survey as “additional costs”. 

We want our financial aid calculations to be a transparent and public process. So if you have additional questions on the Cost of Living survey, its use or how aid awards are made, please reach out to our office and we would be happy to explain or run a mock aid award for next year for you. Also if you are challenged to stretch your funds to meet costs or are seeking ways to maintain a budget, we are  always here to offer advise and resources in that regard also.

This Season On the “Walking Dead”- The Return of Subsidized Loans For Graduate Students

In a prior blog post I formally laid to rest the federal Perkins Loan when it seemed after years of life support, Congress finally pulled the plug on this loan program.  But wait… in a “zombie- esque “ moment  the Perkins Loan seems to have risen from the grave (though not completely in its former iteration).

On December 18th, President Obama signed into law the Perkins Loan Program Extension Act of 2015 extending the authorization of the Perkins Loan Program for another two years .  However (as with all zombies) the Program will not 100% look like it did before.  Going forward “new “ Graduate students will not be eligible for Perkins Loan support (so only prior recipients of Perkins Loans will have the ability to receive additional support).   This is slightly problematic for YLS given that we have always allotted Perkins Loans to our 1Ls exclusively so that they could take advantage of the “subsidized” (no interest building) aspect of the Perkins loan over their full three years of enrollment.  So, depending on what allotment of Perkins Loan funds we receive from central Yale Student Financial Services,  it looks like it’s the 2Ls (Class of 2018) who will have eligibility for  and will benefit from continued Perkins support.

But in an even more shocking “zombie” move… another long dead loan program benefitting Graduate Student is also trying to rise from grave- the Direct Subsidized Stafford Loan.   This loan program was killed in 2011 by the Budget Control Act of 2011, ostensibly to  reduce the federal budget deficit, and  it was a significant blow to Graduate students who had been able to borrow up to $8,500 (with no interest building all through enrollment and the post-graduation six month grace period)  through this loan.   But, just when you thought the Direct Subsidized Stafford was only a distant memory,  last month Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) introduced the Protecting Our Students by Terminating Graduate Rates that Add to Debt (POST GRAD) Act  which would restore eligibility for Graduate students to receive a subsidized Stafford loan.  Unfortunately,  because the bill would not be budget neutral, it’s very unlikely that Congress will take action on it in this current session.  It is however a tremendously positive sign that the need for a subsidized loan vehicle for Graduate students  is even being discussed or on Congress’ radar.

Why is subsidized interest so important? Look at it this way…  if you borrowed that $8,500 in your 1L year in a Direct Unsubsidized Loan at the current 5.84% interest – you would accrue an additional $1,591 in interest by the time the loan goes into repayment. Then it gets worse… when the loan does go into repayment that in school  interest gets “capitalized”(or added ) into the total loan principal… so now you are paying interest on that interest. Ultimately on a 10 year repayment that $1,591 of interest now  costs you $2,119 (and at a 25 year  repayment its $3,075).

Bottom line… getting any  type of subsidized loan vehicle (Perkins or Stafford)  for Graduate students at any amount is a” win” in loan repayment.

If You Build It… They Will Come (Unveiling the new “COAP Calculator”)

So after my last blog post sharing online calculators that can assist you in every permutation of loan repayment, I realized I forgot to showcase the MOST important online calculator of all… our new COAP Calculator.

It was a long time in the making and I want to especially thank Syed Alli from the  YLS IT Department for not only developing the online capacity for the calculator, but also for taking the time to understand the overall complexities and inner workings of the COAP program itself.

You will notice that on the last screen of the calculator there is a large “disclaimer” (seriously, I hang around with enough lawyers to know I need a disclaimer) basically reinforcing – that the online calculator is meant to only provide a possible estimate of COAP funding support and should not be construed as a promise or commitment of future COAP support.  And, of course, actual COAP awards are only made based on a full review of a submitted COAP application.

That being said, the online calculator can give you a good, general idea of COAP support based on your specific debt and anticipated income.  To use the calculator:

Step 1- Annual Income– begin by entering your projected COAP income. Notice there is a pencil icon next to this field which when opened drives you to the Annual Income Calculator where you can enter your income, spouse income, income exclusions for children and assets and then populates the Annual Income field for you.
Step 2Income Growth Rate– you choose the percentage by which you want your income to increase per year.  The system defaults to 5%.
Step 3Loan Amount– enter your total amount of either actual or anticipated  loan debt.  To find your current loan debt – go to
Step 4- Interest Rate– enter an estimated or actual weighted average interest rate.  Want to calculate a weighted average for your combined loans- visit the consolidation calculator.

When you select “Calculate Repayment Plan” the calculator will then display:
Screen 1  – a reminder of the Participant Contribution table used in all awards
Screen 2–  a chart with your individual loan repayment plan showing the annual COAP payout and  then your portion of that payout versus the YLS institutional contribution.
Screen 3– a bar graph image of your individual COAP loan repayment plan

The COAP calculator is a good starting point in understanding how COAP can support your loan repayment. Note that the calculator is specific to COAP guidelines and policies for anyone admitted after September 1, 2011. For a more specific projection (one that might factor changes in employment, marriage and children as they happen throughout your ten years of COAP eligibility)  I would encourage you to set up an appointment with our office so that we can “delve into the weeds” of your own repayment and COAP  options.

The online calculator was a tool that was high in demand from both new admit students seeking to compare LRAP programs (of which we know COAP is the best!) , as well as 3Ls on the brink of actual loan repayment. So we are extremely happy to see it actualized. Use it well!

“Recalculating”…. Great Tools to “Navigate” Your Loan Repayment

Sad commentary on my professional life… I get excited (okay maybe even “giddy”)  every time I discover a new online calculator that helps make loan repayment more understandable and easy.   I collect calculators like other people collect  coins, stamps or sports memorabilia.  But the good news is that  I am now prepared to share the most price pieces of my  “loan repayment calculator” collection with you.

Here are some frequently asked questions or scenarios related to loan repayment and the links to online calculators that will help “estimate”  an  answer for you.  My one disclaimer … some of the sites are specific to individual companies or private enterprises . I am in no way endorsing these sites or companies above any other competing sites and companies.  I have just found the links below to be very useful in lifting the “veil of secrecy” from loan repayment.  Of course the most effective way to use these calculators is to also schedule an individual loan repayment counseling session with our office!

How much will I pay in loan repayment?
For Federal loans:
Federal Repayment Estimator Access Group Loan Calculator
Access Group Loan Manager
For Private loans:
Wells Fargo Private Student Loan Calculator

Will I pay less if I consolidate?
Direct Loans Consolidation Calculator
FinAid Comparative Consolidation Calculator

Will I pay less if I refinance?
Citizens Bank Refinancing Calculator-
Student Loan Hero Refinancing Calculator

How much interest will accrue if I take a deferment?
Nelnet “Cost of Postponing Your Payments” calculator 
Student Loan Hero Deferment Calculator- 

Will I earn enough to make my loan payments?
Paycheck City-Paycheck Calculator
Mapping Your Future Debt/Salary Wizard- Financial Aid Counseling Tool
iGrad “Will I Be Able to Pay Back  My Student Loans” calculator

How much in addition to my monthly payment would I need to pay to pay off my loans in “X” years?
Student Loan Hero Prepayment Calculator-
Bankrate Loan Calculator and Amortization

What would my loan balance be after making “X” number of payments?
DinkyTown Amortizing Loan Calculator –

Should I pay off my student loans or invest?
Student Loan Hero- Payoff VS Invest Calculator
iGrad Pay Down Debt or Invest Calculator –

Play Ball.. Another Federal Loan Repayment Plan Steps Up To The Plate

There is no better example of “if at first you don’t succeed try, try again” then our federal loan repayment program.  Because by the end of this year there will be (wait for it…) yet another loan repayment option available to borrowers.  If you’re keeping count (and really who can at this point) that makes nine options.  Seriously that’s enough repayment plans to field a baseball team.

So who is this new player in loan repayment?  It’s REPAYE, which we are told is not an acronym for “repayment” but for “revised Pay As You Earn (PAYE)” – one of the other plans. So REPAYE is a lot like PAYE with a few notable exceptions that Graduate students, in particular, will not be happy about.

REPAYE is another one of the “income driven repayment plans” meaning that like PAYE and IBR (Income Based Repayment) your actual loan payments are calculated based on a percentage of what is determined to be your discretionary income. And like PAYE again, for REPAYE that percentage is 10% of income.

But here’s where the differences start to affect Graduate students:

With both IBR and PAYE- there was a partial financial hardship qualifier for eligibility.  Anyone at any income (hardship or not) can choose REPAYE. But with that loss of financial hardship provision a cap on the maximum you would ever have to pay per month was also lifted.  With IBR and PAYE, that max you would pay was equivalent to what you would have paid if you were on the standard (10 year) plan. With REPAYE that cap no longer exists. Meaning if you are on the plan and have a significant income spike you could be paying more than on any other repayment option.

With any of the income driven plans there is the likelihood that your payments (based on income) could be calculated so low that you are not even covering the interest that is building on the loan (also called negative amortization). However at the end of 20 years with PAYE or 25 with IBR, the Department of Education as lender would forgive the balance of the loan and all that accumulated interest.  With REPAYE, by virtue of having loans at the Graduate level you are automatically pushed to a 25 year repayment schedule (no 20 year option).  Why is that significant?  Well in addition to making 5 more years of payments on your loans, you also have five more years of the potential negative interest building.  So why is that an issue if the Department of Ed is going to forgive the full balance any way in year 25?  Because right now the way that the current tax law is written that forgiveness in year 25 is a taxable occurrence….meaning that you have to declare the entire amount of the forgiven loan balance as “income” on your taxes? Income that technically you never saw… “phantom income”. And the result could be a pretty significant tax liability at a point in your life (25 years from now) when you may have a lot of other financial priorities (mortgage, car payment, kids in college).  So by pushing Graduate students to a mandatory 25 year repayment on REPAYE- you, the borrower, pays more in loan payments and you will most likely also pay more in taxes.

There are some other hidden nuances in REPAYE as well that change the loan repayment landscape.  One is the “closing” of the marriage loop hold. In IBR and PAYE if you are married and file your taxes separately (not jointly), then only your income would be used to calculate the income driven repayment amount.  However in REPAYE that provision is gone and now regardless of whether you file taxes as married jointly or married separately both you and your spouse’s income would be used to calculate your monthly loan repayment?

I remain an optimist that at some point in the future… one  “perfect” loan repayment plan will be developed …  that will allow borrowers to pay off their student loan obligation but in a way that they understand what they are paying,  when they are paying it and why they are paying it.  Until then…

Move Over NYC… it’s Fashion (On a Budget) Week at YLS!

Think you need to go to the pages of Elle, Marie Claire or Esquire  to see the latest fashion trends? Au contraire!  You could see it right here at YLS in our “Dress For Success… For Less. Part  2” workshop  held on November 2nd.

Shanelle uses our "models" to demonstrate her fashion tips on a budget
Shanelle uses our models to demonstrate her fashion tips on a budget

Given the popularity of this workshop last year , we had to bring back  fashion stylist Shanelle Rein-Olowokere  to guide us through the ins and outs of how to look good without  breaking the bank.  Shanelle is simply loaded with  practical and cost efficient tips on how to maximize your fashion budget.  Most importantly, she also understands what work in a conservative (i.e. looks  law firm ) environment vs a  less format (aka public service)  work culture and she encouraged audience members to take time to study and understand the appropriate dress code for their workplace.

For that conservative work setting, Shanelle recommends that the essentials you should have in your closet include  2-3 suits, 8-10 shirts or blouses, 2-3 pairs of nice trousers, 2-3 blazers, 2-3 loafers/oxford shoes for women or heels for women and 2-3 nice knits including cardigans and pullovers in a solid colors.  For a more casual work environment, Shanelle recommends that the basics include at least one suit (in navy or black), 8-10 shirts or blouses, 4-5 pairs of nice trousers or skirts, 2 pairs of tailored jeans (dark wash), 2-3 blazer and an equivalent 3-4 nice knits.

So how do you afford these basics? Shanelle’ s shopping strategy focused on:
—  Establishing and sticking to a defined shopping budget
—-Don’t start shopping until you have a defined list of what you need.  That list will keep you from buying random items and impulse buys and will also track what was bought and what you still need.
— Go online and see what stores are offering there first.  It’s a more productive way to browse than the hassle of going to an actual store.  And when you actually go  to into the store , it will make more efficient use of your time when you can go in and  try on exactly what you want quickly.
— Shop smart and above all wait until something goes on sale or when a store is offering some sort of promotion. Never pay full price.  And once you have enough pieces for a  set  “starter” wardrobe you can then start shopping off season for even greater savings.

The "more casual" workplace look
The “more casual” workplace look

And what would Fashion Week at YLS be without actual models on the runway?  YLS’sown Jacqueline Van DeVelde ’17, Paul Rink’ 18 and Hyun-Soo Lim’ 18 volunteered to show off some of the newest  fashion trends from Banana Republic .  Shanelle specifically chose the model’s “looks” to demonstrate examples for varied workplace settings.  First,  Paul and Hyun-Soo modeled pieces appropriate to a casual work setting based on pairing jeans, knits and  camel jackets.  Then Paul (doing double duty) and Jacqueline each modeled  stylish  suits appropriate to a conservative work setting.

Our YLS Model- looking like it was taken right from a magazine
Our YLS Model- looking like it was taken right from a magazine



The session ended with a great Q&A where Shanelle fielded questions on  everything from where to find a good tailor (answer test one with a small job first)  to what to wear if you work in an office in the South (don’t worry it will be air conditioned- bring a cardigan!)   to whether high heels are” required”  in a conservative workplace (dressy flat shoes  are perfectly appropriate and comfortable!).

The more “conservative” workplace look!

Above all throughout the workshop, Shanelle reinforced the important statement your work clothes can make in letting your employer know that you take yourself and your work seriously.  And the reality that you can achieve that look in a very cost effective way.

Until next year’s Fashion Week- see you all on the runway! 

R.I.P. Perkins Loan

At midnight, on Wednesday, September 30th the Perkins Loan, age 57, died unexpected on the floor of the U.S. Senate.  Born in 1958, Perkins had a six decade life of assisting high need students with its subsidized low interest rate of 5%, extended 9 month grace period and flexible repayment terms.  Perkins is survived by its siblings the Direct Unsubsidized and Grad Plus loans.  In lieu of flowers, condolences should be offered to any of the 500,000 present recipients of the loan, as well as to future generations of student loan borrowers.

An obituary for the now deceased Perkins loan seems absolutely appropriate. Perkins loans were unique in that loan funds were actually awarded and managed by the educational institution themselves and, as such, could target and benefit  specific students of high need identified by that institution.  In the case of YLS, our Perkins funds were directed to 1L students with the highest institutional scholarship need.  We allocated these loan funds for the first year of enrollment, so that the interest subsidy would benefit students over their full three year enrollment.

So what happened that caused the demise of the Perkins loan program?  The Perkins Loan program had been close to death for  a while since it was originally slated to sunset in 2014 and was on  life support since then through annual renewals.   But last month, in one of its 11th hour moments, the House passed the Higher Education Act of 2015- a bill that would have extended the Perkins Loan Program for an additional year.  Then on September 30th a bipartisan (yes I said bipartisan!!) group of Senate members took to the floor to discuss adopting the House passed bill.  But (in a “no one saw this coming” moment) Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee objected under a “unanimous consent” procedure which requires unanimity to advance issues forward.  And with that objection, the Perkins Program was left to expire at midnight.

Senator Alexander’s rationale in letting the Perkins loan program end was based on his contention that extending the program would simple perpetuate an overly complex  federal student aid system.  Senator Alexander has been advocating for his bipartisan “Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency Act (FAST) which calls for a streamlined federal aid program of one grant and one loan for all eligible students (undergraduate or Graduate level).

So who are the real losers in the loss of the Perkins Loan option?  Certainly Graduate students are high on that list since the Perkins Loan was the last subsidized loan option available to them (after Grads lost the Direct Subsidized Loan in  2012).  What does that subsidy translate to … here is the math:

If in your 1L year you had a $6,000 Perkins but now have to borrow and additional $6,000 in Grad PLUS  loan  (at the present Grad PLUS  interest rate of 6.84%)- you would have accumulated  $1,124 in interest on that Grad PLUS borrowing during your enrollment and subsequent 6 month grace period.  That’s interest that if unpaid (during enrollment or grace)  will then capitalize into your loan principal when you go into repayment  (and then you’re paying interest on interest). So on a 25 year schedule, that $1,124 in interest just amounted to an additional  $2,341 in repayment.

Let’s also add that  the Perkins loan had no origination fee.. so of that $6,000 you borrowed in Grad PLUS- you really only receive $5,744 to use after the 4.272% fee of $256 is taken out. (Yet you pay back the full amount of the $6,000 loan in repayment).

Could the Perkins Loan suddenly pull a Walking Dead zombie moment  and come back to life? There is the possibility that the program could be reconsidered as part of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act )HEA) but having the program formally expire has made the option less likely.

For now take solace that the Perkins Loan has gone to a better place (a heaven with debt free higher education perhaps?)

The “Voice of Experience”- How YLS Students Live On A Budget

So last spring, I reached out to our current students (our now 2Ls and 3Ls) and asked them to share with our incoming Class of 2018 their tips for living economically on our student budget.  I can come up with a million suggestions on how to save money but the reality is that it’s your peers who actually live within the challenges of this budget who can best give this advice.   Many of these tips got incorporated into our Class of 2018 Orientation program but I wanted everyone to have access to these creative and innovative “budget saver” ideas:

“If you cook for yourself, rather than buy lunch, you will easily save $5 a day. And it’s easy if you just make a big one-pot meal on Sunday evening”.

“Pack lunch… if you can’t commit to a full week then just try to do it 3-4 days per week”

“Do once a month stock up road trips to Trader Joes, Whole Foods or one of the food warehouses (Costco, Sam’s Club etc.)- post to the Wall to organize a ride.”

“Invest in a thermos and make your coffee at home and bring it with you- I estimate that I save $20-$30/week doing this”.

“Look into signing up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. We used the Gazy Brothers Farm. They delivered a box of fresh veggies for about $25/week, and that was plenty to feed me and my two roommates. Not only is it cheaper and easier than buying a weeks’ worth of produce at the grocery store, but it is also much fresher and gives you an excuse to cook together! Plus, you won’t be as tempted to eat out. “

“Use loyalty cards whenever possible e.g. at the dining hall, arepa cart (where you can also save $1 for bringing your own dish). Save on coffee at the dining hall by bringing your own thermos, or better yet, bring your own tea bags and use hot water at the law school”

“There is lots of free lunch at YLS, but there will be weeks when most of the free lunches are just pizza and pasta, and you don’t feel like eating it for the fifth day in a row. It’s not a bad idea to make some meals ahead of time and pack food in your bag just in case there is no free lunch on a given day or if you’re not in the mood for more pizza.”

“Use the YLS Dining Hall coffee cards. It’s not the biggest budgetary saving, but a free tenth drink (any size or kind of drink!) is sure to make your day after a long week of classes and activities.”

“Host/attend potlucks and have friends over for dinner on the weekends. It will motivate you to learn how to cook meals and allow you to eat a variety of dishes for your meals with less effort. It’s also a great way to meet 1Ls outside of your small group :)”.

“You can reduce food costs by learning how to cook and avoiding going out to eat. (Join a CSA with a friend! Buy a simple recipe book!)

“Buy alcohol at Costco! Go a run at the beginning of the year and buy some wine for all of those dinner parties on the cheap”

“There is absolutely no reason to go out every meal (or even most meals… or even ANY meal) when this school throws free food at you – with interesting speakers to boot! “

“TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE FREE FOOD! Don’t be shy. I have saved countless time and dollars from free lunches and dinners. Some students even keep Tupperware in their lockers to save leftovers for dinner”
“The Dining Hall can have good value. The pay-by-weight salad bar is surprisingly cheap and healthy. Breakfast options are good, too. Steel cut oatmeal and egg sandwiches are both about $2 and delicious. Don’t forget to get a coffee stamp card at Peets.”

“Make 2-3 servings of food at dinner, and pack the leftovers for lunch>’

“Stock your locker with snacks like energy bars or chips – these snack items are much more expensive from the dining hall or the vending machine.”

“Keep a mug and nonperishable food in your locker, so you don’t have to buy something if you get hungry. For tea drinkers, there is free hot water next to the vending machines in the locker area. I like to keep canned/boxed soup in my locker that I can microwave for a quick meal.”

“Seek out the free food at YLS–it’ll save you tons of money on groceries and eating out. Also, look out for happy hours rather than hitting bars at the priciest times.”

“There is absolutely no reason to go out every meal (or even most meals… or even ANY meal) when this school throws free food at you – with interesting speakers to boot! “

“Carpool with people (email the Wall to ask) whenever you can.”

“Get a bicycle- it’s cheap transportation and allows access to things (like affordable food)”

“Book travel as far in advance as you can – both Amtrak and flight tickets are significantly cheaper if you book 2+ months in advance. Don’t procrastinate on this issue – you will save hundreds of dollars.”

“Take advantage of the YLS and Yale-wide shuttle systems instead of calling taxis/Uber.”

“Look for Yale-sponsored research studies through the Medical School, Stress Center, and YNH Hospital where you can make money by participating in scientific experiments. “

“Be sure to investigate on-campus employment options (including teaching fellow positions for the undergraduate college – they’re extremely lucrative!) to provide supplemental, non-loan income.”

“I also strongly recommend furniture shopping at thrift stores, though you may want to reserve this for non-upholstered items like tables, desks, and dining chairs. My favorites in the area are Savers and Helping Hands Community Thrift Store (which, as a bonus, has a student discount!).”

“Look for furniture on Craigslist — many of the posts in New Haven are Yale students (sometimes even YLS students!) trying to get rid of their furniture before they move apartments or before new roommates move in, and you will often get furniture at a substantial discount.  If you can wait to purchase some furniture (or if you are looking to purchase furniture before moving into another apartment before your 2L or 3L year), watch for posts by graduating and moving YLS students looking to get rid of furniture. Many of them will be giving away furniture (and much more — casebooks, dishware, coffeemakers and other appliances, etc. — the list goes on!) for free or very cheap at the end of the year and you can get a lot of what you need then if you are free to pick up the stuff then.”

“The Yale Free & For Sale Facebook group is a great place to get affordable furniture and household goods from other students:

“Make an excel spreadsheet at the start of the semester about how much you will spend each month / -keep all of your receipts and confirm the charges on your cards are what you actually spend / -at the end of the month, compare your expenses to your budget”

“Buy winter jackets and boots off season. Online shopping or the Eddie Bauer outlet are great places to shop. Unfortunately you WILL need a winter jacket and boots!!”

“Rent or buy used books in good condition. Amazon tends to be cheaper than the bookstore if you want to buy, but the bookstore may be cheaper if you want to rent. OR get your books from the public interest sale, as long as you don’t mind that the casebooks tend to be heavily used/highlighted.”

“Avoid the temptation to get books asap and pay for it in higher shipping costs (joining Amazon Prime for the benefit of free shipping may be a good investment while enrolled). “

So at this point, I could summarize all this in a “rant” reiterating the need to stay on a budget, to track your expenses, to limit those costs you can control (i.e. food and entertainment) but instead I will let one final piece of advice submitted by one of our students speak for itself:
“Many students at YLS are living on a tight budget and limited means. Don’t be afraid to talk about finances or budgeting with your classmates, especially if money is a concern. We should all be supportive of each other!”


What Really “Mattress” And What You Should “Chair” About in Furnishing Your Apartment

So Class of 2018… here is the reality – your new permanent address here in New Haven is 127 Wall Street. That’s where you will be spending the majority of your days and nights. That apartment that you probably just dropped a hefty security deposit on is solely where you store your stuff and sleep.

Given that… there is no real reason to spend your already challenging student budget on furnished said apartment in any type of lavish style.  There are ways to get all the essential furniture you need and still save money

IKEA (located on Sargent Drive in the Long Wharf section) – is probably the go to New Haven “student friendly” destination for inexpensive and yet new furniture.   The biggest time constraint with IKEA is not winding your way through the labyrinths of their massive store  (following their mandated yellow line so that you have to walk through each and every department) but the time you will need in actually putting together the furniture which all comes unassembled  with no written instructions (just pictures) and you r only  tool is the 4 inch allen wrench supplied with each purchase.   There is a reason why IKEA sells a larger $7.99 tool kit close to the checkout counters- invest in that!   My favorite spot in IKEA is actually the “As Is” department which is tucked to the far left of the checkout area. Here you can find significantly reduced display models or slightly damaged furniture and the best part… it’s all pre- assembled!!    No room to fit that purchase in your car? – IKEA also allows you to rent trucks on a daily basis to bring the purchase home. Another budget item  related to IKEA- great inexpensive meals in their restaurant – the signature dish being their Swedish meatballs with  ligonberry sauce.

My other  favorite budget furniture place is Universal  Hotel Liquidators (UHL) located on Rt. 1 in West Haven. Consider the concept… who changes furniture the most often… hotels who are constantly updating  their rooms.  UHL  recognized that and the fact that this furniture for the most part is relatively gently used and as such very resellable. .  Think of it as a “green effort” to recycle furniture that still has a lot of life span left.  It’s an enormous warehouse where you can literally find any type of furniture here that you would find anywhere in a hotel. From the traditional bed sets,  desks, and armchairs to ice buckets, luggage racks and wet bars.  And usually it’s not just one of any given item but sometimes 30 that all came out of the same hotel (so you get to choose which one of the 30 is in the best condition).   Part of the adventure is looking for the identification found somewhere on the piece which tells what hotel  it came from – bonus points if you find anything from the Waldorf Astoria.  Hotel Liquidators will also deliver furniture for a small charge.

For those with a sense of adventure there is always the tag sale/estate sale circuit.  You can find a listing of area weekend sales in the classified of the New Haven register each week (paper version or online) .  If you have a car and can get out to the New Haven suburbs (Orange, Woodbridge, West Haven)  it’s usually some pretty good  pickings.

But why listen to me when he real source of interior design on a budget has to be our own  rising 2Ls and 3Ls who shared these tips:

  •  “I  strongly recommend furniture shopping at thrift stores, though you may want to reserve this for non-upholstered items like tables, desks, and dining chairs. My favorites in the area are Savers and Helping Hands Community Thrift Store (which, as a bonus, has a student discount!). “  [Note- you can find Savers, Helping Hands , the Goodwill Store as well as several private consignment shops all on the Route 1 Boston Post Road strip in Orange].
  • Look for furniture on Craigslist — many of the posts in New Haven are Yale students (sometimes even YLS students!) trying to get rid of their furniture before they move apartments or before new roommates move in, and you will often get furniture at a substantial discount.”
  •   “If you can wait to purchase some furniture (or if you are looking to purchase furniture before moving into another apartment before your 2L or 3L year), watch for posts by graduating and moving YLS students looking to get rid of furniture. Many of them will be giving away furniture (and much more — casebooks, dishware, coffeemakers and other appliances, etc. — the list goes on!) for free or very cheap at the end of the year and you can get a lot of what you need then if you are free to pick up the stuff then. “
  • “The Yale Free & For Sale Facebook group is a great place to get affordable furniture and household goods from other students”

So with these  suggestions, keep in mind  that your New Haven home is still a temporary address.  Really assess what critical furnishings you need to be relatively comfortable over what will be three short years and don’t let your budget fall  flat over the allure of that flat screen television.

Leading the Pack… YLS Loan Counseling

It’s nice to be ahead of curve, lead the pack, whatever euphemism you want to use. It’s also great to receive proof that what you are doing is the right approach.  And that’s what happened to us when TG (a nonprofit promoting education access) in cooperation with the National Association of Financial Aid Administrators released a report last month entitled INFORMED OR OVERWHELMED? A Legislative History of Student Loan Counseling with a Literature Review on the Efficacy of Loan Counseling

What that report validated for YLS was that our approach to loan counseling is on target.  Because the report concluded that in loan counseling “personalized information appears to contribute to a better understanding of information, and face-to-face counseling may be the best way to deliver this personalized information. Both students and financial aid administrators believe that some personalization, preferably face-to-face, is needed for comprehension”.

We began offering personalized loan counseling sessions to our 3Ls three years ago because we recognized that it had become increasingly challenging to navigate the “ever changing” student loan repayment landscape.   We also believed that, as an institution, we had an obligation to insure that our students made the best short term and long term decisions incorporating their loan debt into their larger financial planning.

The bottom line which underscores the need for individualized loan counseling is this… everyone’s total loan debt is different, everyone’s career path is different and, as such, everyone’s loan repayment is different.  (Let’s also add that based on all those factors everyone’s COAP eligibility is also different.)

There is no effective “one size fits all” loan counseling model. Yet so many schools simply default to having their students complete a generic “on line exit interview” required by federal regulations to get their loan repayment information.  We still have our students do the online exit (so that we are in federal compliance) but also take it one step further with our one on one sessions.

The sessions we offer are all about developing a personalized loan repayment plan for you.  In these one hour (or so) meetings we:

  • review your total loan portfolio and current balances,
  • identify who your loan servicer(s) is, their role in your repayment and how to work with them,
  • go over a calendar of when repayment will start and what you need to do to prepare for it
  • evaluate the myriad of repayment plan options offered by the Dept. of Education so that we can compare both monthly repayment costs and overall loan repayment costs (i.e. total principal vs. interest paid) and determine the most viable plan for you’
  • project what your support under our loan repayment assistance program COAP may look like over your ten years of eligibility, even accounting for various scenarios (job changes, marriage, children, etc.) along the way.

But we didn’t really need a report to validate that our personalized approach was the way to go. The proof for us is always our student themselves. We see that many of them walk into these sessions with a lot of trepidations and fear (let’s face it no one wants to really face their loan debt head on). But overwhelming when they finish the meeting they always say things like “that wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be” or “I really can manage this”.   And that’s our goal … to have you walk out feeling confident that you have plan of action to deal with the loan debt in the context of your overall financial planning.