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Fewer Aid Dollars Won't Hurt Harvard

FAS pledges to continue to meet all need

By Laura L. Krug, Crimson Staff Writer

Recent changes to government regulations will decrease federal financial aid to college students by hundreds of millions of dollars next year—but the shift will have little effect on Harvard students, according to Director of the Office for Financial Aid Sally C. Donahue.

Alterations to the federal financial aid formula will mean that fewer students will qualify for federal dollars beginning in the fall of 2004.

But Donahue said that Harvard will use its considerable financial aid resources to render the changes in the federal calculations essentially harmless to Harvard students.

“We assess a student’s need according to both federal and institutional guidelines,” Donahue said. “We are fully committed to meeting the full need of all of our students.”

Harvard will increase aid to students who receive less from the goverment due to the recent changes, Donahue said.

“If the federal dollars aren’t there in the same way they might have been had the tax table not changed, we still will cover the the need with institutional funds,” Donahue said, “We’re very fortunate.”

One impact the new formula will have is on the Pell grant program, which awards grants to about 4.8 percent of the nation’s neediest college-bound students.

Donahue estimated that about nine percent of Harvard students—almost 600—qualify for Pell grants.

But federal money represents a relatively small portion of the of the aid that Harvard students receive. Of the $68 million that Harvard awarded in total aid last year, only $1.5 million came in the form of Pell grants and another $2 million in Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants.

The rest of the financial aid money was institutional, according to Donahue, with about 75 percent from endowed scholarships.

The federal changes would be more serious for Harvard if the University did not have such a large endowment, Donahue said. Less wealthy institutions like community colleges, which can be strapped for cash to award students in need, will be harder hit by the changes. For students attending such schools, money from Pell grants can be an essential part of their aid package.

Harvard, on the other hand, can absorb the effects of the federal money changes, so that its students will not end up paying more to finance their educations.

“If a Harvard student’s Pell grant declines and they demonstrate the same level of need or an increased level of need, we will make up the difference,” Donahue said.

“It won’t decrease the funding for Harvard students. That’s the bottom line.”

—Staff writer Laura L. Krug can be reached at krug@fas.harvard.edu.

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