The Smart Investment

Yet again, Harvard leads the way in financial aid

For many, paying Harvard’s gargantuan termbill just got a little easier. Last week, officials from the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid announced that an expansion of the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative, effective this fall, will eliminate the family contribution for students with family incomes under $60,000 per year. But the good news comes with a sobering addition: tuition will rise this fall to a total of $43,655 per student.

The expansion of the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative (HFAI) is a great stride in Harvard’s financial aid efforts. Previously, HFAI waived family contributions only for students with family incomes under $40,000 per year. In recent years, Stanford and Yale had one-upped Harvard’s promise by waiving tuition for families with incomes less than $45,000. The revamped HFAI surpasses all of the financial aid programs of Harvard’s competitors and, we hope, will have ripple effects throughout higher education by compelling other schools to increase their aid packages as well in order to compete for low-income students.

The announcement that general need-based scholarship funding will increase by 6.2 percent this fall is also welcome news. The leap is a bigger one than that of previous years—in 2005, scholarship funding rose 5.8 percent—and will help soften the blow of higher tuition.

We are heartened by the words of Dean of Admissions William R. Fitzsimmons ’67, who said last spring that his office is evaluating how to make attending Harvard more affordable for families of incomes between $100,000 and $200,000. Many of these families—upper-middle-class, to be sure—are hard-pressed to make ends meet when it’s time to send multiple children to elite colleges.

The College also owes thanks to the University’s central administration for funding HFAI and for committing to support it in future years should the Faculty of Arts and Sciences be unable to fund it.

Although we are dismayed by the tuition jump—$43,655 is no small sum for a student and his family—we recognize that tuition increases are inevitable and often necessary. Harvard exists in the midst of a world of economic realities. Expenses go up outside the gates of the Yard, and so the price of attending the College naturally rises as well. But as increases in financial aid continue to offset tuition raises, and as Byerly Hall continues to look for ways to appropriately reduce the financial burden on all but the wealthiest of students, we are hopeful that Harvard College will continue to become increasingly affordable in the years to come.