Summers To Unveil Financial Aid Plan

University President Lawrence H. Summers will announce today a handful of long-awaited initiatives meant to fulfill his inauguration speech pledge to dramatically improve graduate student financial aid.

Summers has scheduled a conference call with The Crimson for this morning to discuss his plans.

As of last night, details of the initiatives remained tightly under wraps. Several deans and financial aid officials said they had not received word from Mass. Hall that a plan was forthcoming. Officials said the final numbers were still being hammered out.

The plans, over a year in the making, follow the promise Summers made in his October 2001 inauguration speech to make it possible to attend any of Harvard’s graduate schools regardless of financial need.

Summers’ office has been collecting information from all of the graduate schools since November 2001—first general estimates of students’ unmet need, then specific plans for money from the University.

In interviews this fall, Summers said the central administration would be looking to provide additional funding for many of the University’s smaller schools, particularly those that train students for less lucrative careers in public service.

With the sagging economy and endowment payouts frozen at 2 percent, some of these schools couldn’t afford to continue even piecemeal improvements to aid on their own.

At his State of the School address this fall, Kennedy School of Government Dean Joseph S. Nye said he was waiting on word from Mass. Hall. “What we’re going to have to do is hold the line on financial aid,” he said in November.

But to do anything more than hold the line will cost the University tens of millions of dollars annually. Going by the estimates three of the neediest schools provided last winter, to meet their students’ full needs would require more than $30 million per year. Administration sources have said that the Summers initiatives would likely be a mix of debt relief, increased grants and low-interest loans.

As part of the plan, Summers will announce today a partnership with a private financial institution, said to be similar to a Harvard Business School program with Citibank. That program, called CitiAssist, gives students loans—regardless of nationality—with guaranteed approval and interest rates .125 percent below the prime rate.

Summers has said that improved aid for future public servants will be one of the University’s top fundraising priorities. According to administrators, a University-wide capital campaign in part targeting this priority is being considered.

The administration has already implemented a change that could help pave the way for this effort. In November, Summers announced a change to fundraising policies that encourages University alums to donate more to fund financial aid at Harvard’s smaller and poorer graduate schools, establishing a special University-wide fund for that purpose.

—Please see The Crimson’s website (www.thecrimson.com) this evening for further details on Summers’ plan following his announcement.

—Staff writer David H. Gellis can be reached at gellis@fas.harvard.edu.