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John Harvard's Journal

Counting the Costs

July-August 2002

What would it take to address the financial problems of particularly needy students who want to pursue their graduate or professional education at Harvard? The estimate of the School of Public Health (SPH) may be illuminating.

Given the location of public-health problems, the school is especially interested in attracting international students and Americans from underrepresented minority groups (whose enrollment at SPH is proportionally far below that at competing schools). Even if students were required to take on loans at subsidized rates, and have some self-help component in an aid package, the school needs $5 million per year just for those targeted populations, says Stanley G. Hudson, assistant dean for enrollment services. That's not a substantial sum in terms of Harvard's $2-billion budget—but it's twice the school's total grant budget now, and the equivalent of income from $100 million of new endowment. To extend comparable need-based aid to the student body as a whole would require the income from $350 million of additional endowment—more than a 50 percent addition to the total endowment today.

Right now, Hudson says, SPH is fighting a constant battle of rising expectations. Prospective students know Harvard as the richest university in the world, and "they are stunned when they are offered packages consisting of big loans and nothing else. Some of the conversations are pretty painful."