Harvard: Free Tuition for Families Earning Under $60K

Students can now use outside scholarships to offset summer savings obligations

Families earning less than $60,000 a year will no longer be expected to pay for their children to attend Harvard, school officials said today.

With that announcement, Harvard jumps to the head of a pack of top universities that are expanding financial aid for undergraduates from low-income and middle-class families.

In 2004, Harvard officials said that families earning less than $40,000 a year would no longer have to contribute to the cost of their children’s tuition, room, and board. But undergraduates still had to foot a fraction of their tuition costs through paid work or student loans.

The school’s policy on student contributions is now set to change. According to Harvard’s current student handbook, which still reflects the 2004 policy, the financial aid committee “expects that students will save approximately $2,000 from their summer job to be contributed toward the educational expenses of the following year.” Outside scholarships could not be used to replace summer income. But according to a statement from Harvard officials today, students will now be able to use outside scholarships “to eliminate their summer savings obligations.”

Since 2004, several selective schools in the Ivy League and beyond have one-upped Harvard’s financial aid pledge. Yale announced last March that families earning under $45,000 would no longer have to contribute to their children’s tuition and fees. This month, Stanford matched Yale’s offer for families earning less than $45,000. And just last week, the University of Pennsylvania announced that families earning less than $50,000 would no longer have to take out loans to send their children to the school.

Harvard also announced today that it would reduce tuition costs for families earning between $60,000 and $80,000 a year.

Median household income in the United States was $44,389 in 2004, the most recent year for which data is available, according to the Census Bureau.