As winter approaches, the clothing subsidy remains out of reach for some

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The Winter Clothing Grant selection process is raising eyebrows among students about the overall accessibility of financial resources at Yale for low-income first-generation students.

Brian Zhang

2:16 a.m., October 11, 2022

Staff reporter


Zoe Berg, Senior Photographer

Yale’s Winter Clothing Scholarship, which offers students up to $300 to buy clothing for the cold, is again in high demand as cold weather sets in.

In less than a week since the grant portal opened on October 3, over 100 applications have been submitted. Yale College assistant dean Rebekah Westphal told the News that the percentage of students who are approved is probably the same as last year, close to 60%.

Still, the grant’s eligibility requirements and selection process have raised concerns about the accessibility of financial resources at Yale for low-income first-generation students. The News spoke to five students about applying for the grant and the challenges they faced while doing so.

“From conversations I have had with my fellow FGLI Yalies, it is notoriously difficult to apply [to] and receive the fund,” said Hedy Tung ’24, who is currently president of the Yale First Gen and Low-Income Advocacy Movement.

Offered primarily to freshmen and sophomores, the Winter Clothing Scholarship is a service of the Dean’s Office that can be applied to coats, scarves, pants, and shoes that fall under the winter clothing category.

The $300 amount, up $25 from last year’s grant, reflects the maximum amount a student can get. Students can apply through the Security net portal from October to January, and are then connected with a staff member of the GLLI Community Initiative if their application is approved.

According to Safety Net, preference is given to “needy students unfamiliar with winter weather,” although previous grant applicants have suggested there is a hidden agenda when navigating the application process.

“When you come to Yale as an FGLI or QuestBridge student, you meet program directors and admissions officers who warm us up and make us feel good about coming to Yale talking about things like the safety net and the subsidy for winter clothing,” Joanna Ruiz ’25 said. “But then you come here and there are a lot of unstated obstacles about these programs.”

Westphal told the News that preference is given to high-need students who have not received the Startup Grant — an additional $2,000 scholarship that can be used to cover costs associated with starting college — in their financial aid program.

But the students eligible for the start-up scholarship are generally those with full financial aid and the most likely to be unable to afford their winter clothes, Tung told the News.

Asked about student concerns, Westphal explained that the Office of Student Engagement responds to most inquiries within five business days and provides clear guidelines on how to receive and use funds.

Ruiz got a $275 grant last year, buying a set of winter clothes she didn’t own before moving to New Haven from Florida. But she pleaded for a “better developed” fund distribution process to take into account the “ongoing” nature of the FGLI experience.

Winter clothes can be expensive, she says, which means a grant is often enough for just one set. Students shouldn’t be “expected to have one coat and one set of pants for all winter months,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz also noted that a one-time grant doesn’t account for weight fluctuations and body changes that can impact a student’s need for new clothes.

For Mariah Najera ’25, who also received the scholarship as a freshman, her home state of Rhode Island poses a different kind of problem: getting her application approved by the Safety Net in the first place.

Because the scholarship prioritizes students “unfamiliar with winter weather,” Najera said older students told her that students from the North East are often denied the scholarship. Older students advised her to “create a story” to dramatize her financial situation to increase her chances of receiving the money.

Denied requests typically include suggestions for options to consider, Westphal wrote. But Lusangelis Ramos ’25, who was denied the clothing grant, said seeking other options can have mixed results; an acquaintance was able to receive monetary aid after a request to his university principal, Ramos said, while a similar request to his own university principal was denied.

Safety Net recommended that he use his existing reimbursement from the University to buy winter clothes – to which Ramos wondered, “So what is the Safety Net for in the first place?”

This reimbursement, which is usually offered to students on full aid who have also accrued outside scholarships or participated in certain academic programs at Yale College, could have been delegated to other expenses, she said.

Tony Wang ’25, who identifies as a low-income student, said the winter clothing grant would further ease a significant financial burden for FGLI students who have scholarships and outside funds, as these scholarships can then be used for other purposes. The administration shouldn’t assume that clothing — or any other facet of life — is the only difficult expense facing low-income students, he said.

Ruiz suggested that Yale resources, such as regular newsletters, blur the diverse experiences captured by the FGLI label. According to Ruiz, failure to recognize that the campus FGLI community is not a “monolith” results in a program that, while well-intentioned, may leave some students behind.

Najera said her participation in student-led on-campus mentorship groups at FGLI was instrumental during the application process. Her mentors sat down with the applicants and had everyone complete the form “at the same time,” which she says helped deconstruct one of the hardest parts of any application process for applicants. Students Unaware of Hidden Yale Programs: Know Where to Find the Application. and start it.

Often, organizations like YFAM serve as the one-stop mediator of contact between FGLI students and the administrative end, Najera said.

“The truth is, Yale will give you money if you need it,” Najera said. “You just need to know that they can give you money, and if you’re not in spaces that cater to FGLI students, you might leave without knowing about those resources.

Applications for the winter clothing grant close in January.




BRIAN ZHANG


Brian Zhang covered student life for the University office, and previously housing and homelessness for the City office. He is a sophomore at Davenport College.

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