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Harvard Medical School Financial Aid Student Subcommittee Brings New Perspective to Debt Conversations

HMS Gordon Hall
The main quad at Harvard Medical School.

Harvard Medical School convened a student financial aid subcommittee last semester to incorporate student voices into financial aid policy decisions.

The subcommittee was created to bring student voices into the fold as administrators consider ways to address student debt concerns surrounding higher education, according to Sarah Carey, associate director of financial aid at the Medical School. Four student representatives sit on the subcommittee after complete an annual application process coordinated by the student council. Applicants must also meet with the director of financial aid when being considered.

“The Financial Aid Committee has long included students among its membership. This fall we convened a student subcommittee to further strengthen our partnership with students,” Carey wrote in an emailed statement. “They are volunteers who join us in working toward a shared goal of reducing student debt.”

Keizra S. Mecklai, a Medical School student on the subcommittee, said the group provides students with an opportunity to speak directly with administrators about ideas that either haven’t been tried before or “deserve to be further investigated.” The subcommittee also allows students to make more substantial contributions to larger committee meetings, she said.

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“We meet the month before the full financial aid committee meeting to further investigate an idea,” Mecklai said. “That would actually allow us to have agenda time on the financial aid committee’s agenda, so that we could present the idea. It’s basically just an infrastructural way to make sure that student ideas are being heard.”

Nicholos P. Joseph, president of the Medical School student council, said the formation of this subcommittee was one of his goals coming into his term.

“I came in this year with a vision to really foster community and to incorporate student voices into financial aid,” he said. “I think one big thing is that Harvard, in general, really values its diversity. That’s one of the cornerstones of it’s admissions policies, so we have been trying to foster that community through a variety of different ways.”

Harvard’s involvement of student voices in conversations about financial aid and mitigating student debt comes in the wake of New York University Medical School’s decision last summer to eliminate tuition for all MD students. At the same, Harvard Medical School Dean George Q. Daly ’82 informed students that Harvard would not be following suit.

Edward Hundert, Harvard’s dean for medical education, also said at the time that the school makes its financial aid decisions related to need.

“What we're trying to do is make sure that, as we allocate our scholarship funds, that we do it based on the calculated ability to pay of people who apply, so that we don't get into the possibility that a students from a family of considerable means is getting more of our aid relative to a student of more limited means,” he said in September.

Harvard’s newly formed student subcommittee met once in January, but Mecklai said she has already seen the committee’s influence.

“I think the biggest impact right now is establishing a structural way for students to have input on part of the agenda for financial aid committee meetings,” she said. “At the least, we are just offering our opinions on initiatives or agenda items that were offered by the administration and actually being able to have a hand in that.”

—Staff writer Alexis K. Bolner can be reached at alexis.bolner@thecrimson.com

Follow her on Twitter @AlexisBolner.

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