Harvard University is guaranteeing that households earning less than $40,000 annually won’t have to pay for their children’s education at the school, which plans to reach out more to students from low- and moderate-income families.
Through the initiative, announced Saturday, Harvard also will reduce the contributions expected of families earning between $40,000 and $60,000 and intensify its efforts to recruit talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds. It will set aside an additional $2 million to cover the expanded financial aid commitment, increasing its annual undergraduate scholarship budget to just under $80 million.
“We want to send the strongest possible message that Harvard is open to talented students from all economic backgrounds,” university President Lawrence H. Summers said in the announcement.
“Too often, outstanding students from families of modest means do not believe that college is an option for them -- much less an Ivy League university,” Summers said.
“Our doors have long been open to talented students regardless of financial need, but many students simply do not know or believe this. We are determined to change both the perception and the reality,” Summers said.
Summers was scheduled to address the American Council on Education’s annual meeting in Miami today.
About 1,000 of Harvard’s 6,600 undergraduates are expected to benefit.
Tuition and fees will not be absolutely free for students qualifying under the plan; they still will be asked to meet “self-help” requirements through scholarships, work-study and summer jobs. But families making less than $40,000 will no longer have to pay the current $2,300 contribution, and families between $40,000 and $60,000 will see their contribution decrease by an average of $1,250.
Terry Hartle, senior vice president of government and public affairs for the American Council on Education, said he expects competitive admissions colleges to follow suit.
“What we have here is the combination of a generous proposal and a university synonymous with high-quality higher education,” Hartle said.
Harvard said it will identify and visit high schools where students might not consider Harvard an option, and reach out to students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds to make them aware of its financial aid resources. For these students, Harvard said, it will waive application fees, pay for travel for campus visits and books, winter clothing, medical care and other expenses.
This year, tuition, room and board, and fees at Harvard cost $37,928; two-thirds of students receive financial aid. The university, based in Cambridge, Mass., said it awarded just under $110 million in aid last year.