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Harvard widens student aid offers

The aim: Help for middle and upper-middle incomes

Harvard University announced Monday a major expansion of financial aid that will reduce tuition bills by thousands of dollars , even for families earning six figures.

The university said it would replace all loans with grants, and spend up to $22 million more annually on aid, mostly targeting middle- and upper-middle class students. Families earning under $60,000 already pay nothing to attend the world's richest university, with an endowment of nearly $35 billion.

Now, however, parents earning between $60,000 and $120,000 will pay a percentage of their income, rising to 10 percent. Families with incomes between $120,000 and $180,000 will have to pay 10 percent of their incomes.

Harvard also said it would take home equity out of its wealth calculation in financial aid, which should provide a greater boost for students and parents. Overall, Harvard said a typical family earning $120,000 would pay about $12,000 next year, down from $19,000 under current award policies. For a typical family earning $180,000, the bill would drop to $18,000, from more than $30,000.

About half of Harvard students receive some form of aid, including students from about 100 families who earn more than $200,000.

For those who pay full tuition, room and board, the price is $45,620.

University officials said their surveys showed even students from well-off families were feeling the pinch by having to work outside jobs and not being able to fully engage in the life of the university. Harvard officials also worried prospective applicants were scared away by the school's cost.

Dean of Admissions and Financial aid William Fitzsimmons said Harvard had grown concerned students were having an "Upstairs, Downstairs" experience. "On the one hand the more affluent students had full access to the full Harvard experience in its totality. But this chunk of people ... 53 percent of the population, we felt were having a diminished experience."

The announcement is the latest of a string by well-endowed universities who are trying to combat perceptions they are unaffordable with major initiatives to reduce the price students actually pay.

A handful of schools, starting with Princeton in 2001, had eliminated all student loans, but Harvard had declined to match that step until Monday's announcement.

Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust said the money would come from funds from a variety of sources, including the strong returns on Harvard's endowment.


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