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Kennedy School Merges Financial Aid and Admissions Teams, Laying Off Seven

Most higher education institutions have separate personnel for admissions and financial aid. The Kennedy School's restructuring combines them into one staff.
Most higher education institutions have separate personnel for admissions and financial aid. The Kennedy School's restructuring combines them into one staff. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Cara J. Chang and Meimei Xu, Crimson Staff Writers

The Harvard Kennedy School merged its financial aid and admissions teams in July, laying off five employees in the school’s Student Financial Services department and two in Admissions and Recruitment while creating eight new positions.

“While we are excited about this approach, unfortunately moving to this new structure requires the discontinuation of current roles within our admissions and student financial services teams,” Senior Associate Dean for Degree Programs and Student Affairs Debbie E. Isaacson wrote in an email sent to Kennedy School faculty and staff July 15.

According to Isaacson’s email, Assistant Dean for Enrollment Services Oliver Street will lead the new merged team, which will recruit one senior director, two senior counselors, four counselors, and a coordinator.

“Each of the counselors will have responsibility for all aspects of recruiting, awarding aid to, and yielding our students,” Isaacson wrote.

The Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers, which represents the staff laid off, declined to comment.

The long-standing Work Security Program for Layoffs, developed jointly by HUCTW and the University, guarantees laid-off union employees three months of full pay and benefits as they seek employment elsewhere. Those in the program may apply monthly for up to three additional months of support.

The merger is not a cost-saving measure, Isaacson wrote in her email.

Instead, the restructuring is a new approach to holistic support, HKS spokesperson James F. Smith wrote in an emailed statement.

“This reorganization will ensure that prospective and admitted applicants as well as current students receive seamless guidance and support from Enrollment Services from admissions to financial support until graduation -- throughout their relationship with HKS,” Smith wrote.

In her email announcement, Isaacson mentioned Harvard College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences have also adopted a merged financial aid and admissions model.

While many higher education institutions have departments that are responsible for both admissions and financial aid, they typically have separate personnel for each core function. The Kennedy School’s restructuring combines them into one staff.

Isaacson wrote the Kennedy School was grateful to its departing staffers.

“We are incredibly thankful to our colleagues for their many contributions to the School and our students over the years and especially during the many months of the pandemic,” she wrote.

—Staff writer Cara J. Chang can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CaraChang20.

—Staff writer Meimei Xu can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @meimeixu7.

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