Financial Aid Faces a New Snag

The Government Is Tightening the Purse Strings

Financial aid is generally not one of Harvard's sore spots. Harvard's financial situation in the past has been solvent enough to provide for most students who have been able to prove, under the guidelines of the College Scholarship Service that Harvard subscribes to, that they actually need financial aid.

But this year, Seamus P. Malin '62, director of the Harvard-Radcliffe office of financial aid, won't be able to be so free with money. It won't be because the endowment is shrinking, or because more students need aid, or because the guidelines have become more strict. It will be because a too-liberal distribution of federally-backed loans and jobs could cost the university--and students--as much as $68 million in federal funds.

Students on financial aid annually receive a budget from Malin's office. This lists the amounts of income expected from different sources to pay for the coming school year: a certain figure is to come from parents, some more from grants, and still more from "self-help." Students can fulfill their self-help expectation by taking a loan, or job, or both.

If a student borrows money from a federally-backed program, or takes a job funded by the federal government, a ceiling on the amount of money he can earn is imposed. The current problem arises, John S. Harwell, director of the Student Employment Office explained, because in the past Harvard has not--with the exception of students on work-study programs--enforced the ceiling, and has allowed students to earn more than their self-help expectation.

But with federal belt-tightening, there are now new government regulations on monitoring the administration of federally-funded loan and job programs, Malin said. The University, which in the past only had the responsibility for determining students' eligibility for federal programs, now has full responsibility for seeing that federal funds are not unnecessarily spent, Charles O. Honnet, assistant director of the Student Employment Office, said last week.


"Full responsibility" means that the university is being asked to enforce a ceiling on students' self-help budgets in all cases where students receive money from federally provided or federally insured loans, and not just in work-study programs, which have always had enforced ceilings.

The result, Harwell said, could be painful for some students. "If students formerly made up a part of what should have been their parents' contribution with their own money, and were on a federally funded program other than work-study, under the old rules they would have kept as much as they earned. Now, we have to limit their earnings, and help them find alternative ways of financing their education."

Part of the responsibility for finding alternative ways will go to Harwell's office. "Looking for non-University jobs will definitely become more important because they won't be subject to monitoring," Honnet said.

The Student Employment Office will also be in charge of monitoring student earnings, although the exact method of monitoring has not yet been established. SEO currently is drawing up a system to check on students' earnings through the comptroller's office, Honnet said.

For Malin, the change will mean more work. "The only way we'll be able to change a student's financial status is by reviewing it," he said. But, more importantly, it will mean Malin will have much less flexibility in making awards, and will have to be less generous with federal money for financial aid in the future.