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Financial Aid at Harvard

Harvard is one of the few remaining colleges in the country to maintain a true need-blind admissions policy. Need-blind admissions means that freshmen are accepted on the basis of their scholastic achievements and other talents, not their ability to pay tuition. There are no athletic scholarships. Financial needs are met through a combination of scholarships, loans, and term-time jobs. The financial aid package may cover up to 100 percent of tuition and expenses, depending on the degree of need.
Shortly before June 19, 1638, Nathaniel Eaton, first Master of the College, moved with his family from Charlestown into a house in the Yard. By Sept. 17, he had already assembled and begun teaching the first freshman class of nine. Until the Bay Colony started using coins for commerce, students for many years paid their tuition and living expenses in commodities ranging from agricultural products and livestock to boots, cloth, and hardware.

In 1655, disgruntled over being the first to complete the recently introduced four-year curriculum, 15 of the 17 members of the Class of 1655 refused to pay a £3 Commencement fee or take their degree. Only two graduated. The situation helped to fire enthusiasm for creating a new college in Connecticut, but the future Yale College did not gain its charter until 1701.

Harvard's need-blind admissions policy evolved from a conviction that students learn as much from each other as they do from academic study. Thus, the more diverse the student body, the more opportunity students have to learn from their peers.

The push for greater diversity began under President James Bryant Conant, who established the National Scholarship Program in 1934, making Harvard accessible to well-qualified students of limited means throughout the country. In the 1950s, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Wilbur J. Bender made the College even more accessible by organizing alumni into a far-flung network to convince talented students who might not have considered Harvard to give it a try.

In the late 1960s, under President Nathan M. Pusey, the Admissions Office began to apply Bender's philosophy of active recruitment specifically to minorities. As a result, the proportion of African-American students increased from 3 percent to 7 percent between 1968 and 1969.

Under President Derek Bok, need-blind admissions combined with the aggressive recruitment of talented students from around the world - of all ethnic groups and economic levels - resulted in increasing diversity among the student body. Between 1976 and the present, minority enrollment has more than tripled, reaching approximately 35 percent.

During the 1999-2000 academic year, Harvard undergraduates received $59 million in scholarship aid alone, more than 90 percent of which came from the College. About 48 percent of Harvard undergraduates receive scholarship grants averaging $18,700 each. Approximately 70 percent of undergraduates receive some form of financial aid, totaling more than $81 million. The total average financial aid package, including grants, loans, and term-time jobs, is more than $22,900.

In a real sense, all students at Harvard are on financial aid because the actual cost of a Harvard education exceeds the cost of tuition by approximately $10,000 per student. This subsidy is made possible through gifts and endowment funds.


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