Students Answer The $2K Question


At the beginning of this month, more than 3,000 undergraduates got a letter from Byerly Hall playing Ed McMahon.

The letter explained that Harvard's financial aid increase in September meant a $2,000 scholarship payoff for every student now receiving aid. Students were offered a choice--apply that windfall towards reducing student loans, job requirements or both.

But two weeks after the deadline for making that decision passed, half of those students still haven't responded.

Although some say Harvard Mail Services is at fault, that's still 1,500 needy undergraduates who have yet to take the money and run. The financial aid office is sending all these delinquent recipients another letter today, giving them a week to 10 days for decision-making.


But this letter shouldn't be just a formality, to be left to rot under with your telephone bills. It's a blank check good for a year off of work, a summer without saving or a graduation not clouded by the prospect of life in consulting purgatory.

The trick is to develop a strategy for spending, a plan for that $2,000 suited to your life at Harvard. The following is an investment guide for the new tuition boost.

For you shall know the truth, and the truth shall shrink your fees.

The Options: Loans and Work-Study

Every undergraduate financial aid package begins with self-help requirements--from $6,850 to 7,900 in loans and work-study per year. This number assumes that a student has no outside scholarships, which will be subtracted out of self-help requirements under the new aid plan. About $2,000 of this self-help is accounted for by a term-time job. That leaves $5,000 to 6,000 annually in student loans.

Harvard's class of 1998 walked out of the Yardat Commencement loan-heavy, an average $16,500 indebt.

And according to William Wright-Swadel,director of the Office of Career Services (OCS),that loan debt affects the career plans of manyCollege graduates.

"As they were making [career] choices, theywere clearly impacted by the amount of debtcarried," Wright-Swadel said.

He said students interested in public serviceand education careers, traditionallyhigh-fulfillment and low-paying fields, "reallyfelt they needed to do something else first" inorder to pay back their loans.

The other half of self-help is a term-time job.About two-thirds of Harvard students with jobs aresupported by federal work-study funds. Thefinancial aid office says most students work eightto 12 hours per week to meet their $2,000commitment.

The down side of working at the Collegeterm-time is that students often miss out onextracurricular activities and schoolwork becauseof their jobs. With the additional $2,000 inscholarship moneys now in every needy student'saccount at Byerly Hall, it's possible to basicallyeliminate a job requirement for the year or cutstudent loans in half.