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Harvard Extends Financial Aid to the "Not-So-Needy"

December 14, 2007

by Paulina Mis

In a move that’s both impressive and grossly irritating to poor students across the nation, Harvard University announced on Tuesday its intent to improve the financial aid packages of well-off students. Of course that’s not how they announced it. According to the Harvard Crimson (the university newspaper), the Dean of Admissions William Fitzsimmons proudly declared that the aid would allow students to pursue careers in public service without fear of outstanding debt--as if that's the ultimate goal of most Harvard graduates.

In 2006, Harvard eliminated contribution requirements for students whose families made less than $60,000 per year. It has taken things one step further this year by increasing the amount of financial aid offered to students whose household income was greater than that. Mr. Fitzsimmons stated that families making between $60,000 and $200,000 were in a state of “crisis” when it came to finding money for college.

Hmmm…Crisis eh? That’s quite a hyperbole, especially when one considers  the rising number of students who leave school with debt that exceeds $100,000. I somehow don’t feel bad for people making $200,000 each year, and I definitely don’t subscribe to the fact that they are going through a crisis. According to the 2006 U.S. Census Bureau, the median (not average) income in the U.S. is $48,201 and only 19 percent of households make over $100,000. Double that and the word crisis does not apply.

Under Harvard's new plan, families with incomes between $60,000 and $120,000 per year will soon be expected to pay 0-10 percent of their income for an education.  Those making between $120,000 and $180,000 will be expected to pay 10 percent of that amount. To put things in perspective, the sticker price for the Harvard package is $45,620, and a family making $180,000 will pay 39 percent of that.

After reading the article, Harvard graduate Andrew Kalloch offered his thoughts on the news in a letter to the editors, “I wear old T-shirts, and they suit me just fine. Others wear designer clothing and there is nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is asking alumni to contribute to the embarrassment of riches already bestowed upon the American upper class.”

I'm not saying we should begrudge any students their financial aid, popped collars or not. After all, low or nonexistent tuition would be a deserved dream come true for most hard working students. It's just a bit disconcerting that myriad students with incomes far below those acknowledged by Harvard are burdened by student loans, and no one is giving them a reasonable piece of the pie.


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