Due to the high costs of private colleges in America, many gifted low-income, minorities students are forced to choose whether or not to accept burdensome student loans or reject acceptance to the school of their dreams due to lack of funds.
Harvard University, however, is making a huge effort to remedy this problem for students hoping to attend their university.
In 2004 the university began its Financial Aid Initiative, announcing that any student whose parents earned less than $40,000 a year would receive full funding for their education at Harvard. In 2006 the school extended the same funding for those families earning less than $60,000 per year, and this past year the number was raise to $65,000. In addition to this, students whose parents earn between $65,000 and $100,000 will only have to pay anywhere between 0 to 10 percent of the cost of education.
This initiative has allowed an influx of gifted minority students to join the prestigious Harvard fraternity. Harvard senior sociology major, Jordan Ashwood, is one such individual. Ashwood, a Massachusetts native, was able to receive funding for the past three years of her education, including a semester abroad, because of the initiative.
“I really am forever grateful for the funding and resources [Harvard] was able to provide me with,” said Ashwood.
Ashwood recalls applying to various colleges as a high school senior, and the tremendous impact school costs played in her decision.
“The financial aid package was really one of the major factors that tipped the scale for me in terms of deciding what school to attend,” said Ashwood.
Although this program was not created exclusively for minority students, it has greatly increased the diversity of the university. For instance, the 2013 incoming freshman class has a record number of minority students—10.9 percent are from Latino/Hispanic decent, 10.8 percent are African Americans, 17.6 percent are Asian Americans, and 1.3 percent are Native Americans. Nearly 60 percent of Harvard’s student body receive some type of financial assistance and that number is substantially higher for minorities, according to Sally Donahue, the Senior Admissions Officer and Director of Financial Aid at Harvard.
“Obviously, with our financial aid programs we focus on socio-economic diversity, but along with that comes a sort of racial and ethnic diversity,” Donahue said. “There are many low-income students who are not minorities, but certainly there are many who are and I think we have seen a steady increase in the number of talented minority students who now know that Harvard is affordable and that they should apply if it’s a place they want to study.”
Even before the Financial Aid Initiative was created Harvard had a strong need-based financial aid program. Once this initiative was created, however, it not only sparked a chord with students, but alumni as well.
“Many of our alumni and scholarship donors have really stepped up to the plate in contributing a generous amount of money to help out with funding these students who otherwise would not be here at Harvard,” Donahue said.
I addition to this, the university has made an intentional effort to advertise this program in many low-income and minority communities. Ashwood plays a direct role in this effort, working alongside the undergraduate minority recruitment program as a student coordinator in the financial aid department.
“We contact […] schools in the surrounding area and other parts of the country where the majority of families are from low-income backgrounds and minority backgrounds, and we target them to a certain extent because we want to make sure that they’re aware of the incredible nature of the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative,” said Ashwood.
The administration is extremely proud of the program and how it helped to close the gap in opportunity for those who manage to get into Harvard.
“I thank Harvard for what they are doing and for how much of an impact they are making to engage with […] the community because it really does make a difference,” said Ashwood.
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