Although the Law School has generous funding for institutional grant assistance, its funding is not unlimited. In order to ensure that the awarding of grant funds is based on financial need, the Law School considers the ability of students and their parents to financially contribute to school costs before awarding Law School grant and loan assistance. Therefore, except as described below, students wishing to be considered for Law School funds must include parent information on the Harvard Institutional Application Form, as well as on our institutional parent data collection web forms. In addition, copies of parents’ individual tax returns, W2s, and all schedules must also be submitted directly to the office. Students whose parents are unable or unwilling to submit required financial information will not be considered for HLS Grant assistance.
If parents are divorced or separated, information is required from both natural parents regardless of court-mandated arrangements. Our general policy is to base our analysis of parents’ ability to contribute to the student’s educational expenses solely on the financial situation of the two natural parents; however, in rare cases a step-parent’s financial resources may be considered in our assessment of financial need. Given that divorced/separated family situations vary greatly from one student to the next, students are encouraged to contact their Financial Aid Officer with individual questions.
In cases where families have a percentage of ownership in a farm, business partnership, S-Corporation or Regular Corporation, we also require copies of all relevant business tax forms as well as the submission of one of our supplemental business web forms.
Students who do not expect to qualify for Grant assistance may apply under a simplified “loan only” status and will not be required to submit parents’ financial information. Students applying under “loan only” status are not eligible for HLS Grant assistance, and a parental resource assessment will not be calculated or imputed.
A number of important calculations are heavily influenced by the size and makeup of your family, as well as by the number of family members (generally only biological or half- siblings) who will be attending college or graduate school during the same academic year as the HLS student. It is critical that you provide accurate and complete family information when completing your financial aid application so that we can be sure to give you every consideration possible when determining your eligibility for aid. Below are some guidelines to assist you when you are reporting your family information on your application forms.
Parents (Biological and/or Step-Parents, if applicable)
Please include information about both of your biological parents on all applicable application forms. In cases where a student’s parents are divorced or separated, we still require information from both biological parents regardless of who may or may not have had custody of the student as a minor. If one or both parents have remarried, we also require information on the step-parent’s finances and assets. For the purposes of assessing parental resources, the step-parent’s income (while required to be submitted) will generally not be factored in; however, all household assets — whether jointly held with the student’s biological parent or individually by the biological parent or step-parent — will be considered. We protect 50% of the combined value of these assets and use the resulting total in our calculations.
Special Note for Adoptive Parents: In cases of adoption, the student’s adoptive parent or parents are treated as biological parents.
Siblings (and half-siblings, if applicable)
Family information provided regarding siblings should be limited to the student’s biological (including half-siblings) or adoptive siblings. In addition, if a student’s parents are providing more than half the support for a non-sibling who is living with the family — a step-child or grandparent, for example — then information about these people should also be provided. In some cases, we require proof of that support and expect that person to be listed as a dependent on the parents’ tax return.
For the purposes of reporting the “Number in College,” please list all siblings (as defined above) who are enrolled at least half-time in an accredited degree-granting college or graduate school. Again, just to be clear, being enrolled in an accredited graduate or professional degree-granting program counts towards the answer to the “Number in College” question, not just enrollment in an undergraduate program.
Fall Update and Sibling Verification
During the Fall Update process, SFS will verify the enrollment of siblings who are reported as “in School”. Verification will be done via a form that the sibling in question should have her/his institution complete and submit to SFS. It is important that siblings who are reported as “in School” have their enrollments verified: this particular data point can have a significant impact on the final award package and HLS grant eligibility.
This is because the raw assessed parent contribution (PC) is divided by the number of children the parents have who are enrolled at least half-time in a degree-granting program for that academic year. For example, in 2014-2015, a single student with no dependents enrolling in SHIP with a Student Contribution (SC) of $0 would not be eligible for HLS grant if the raw PC was $40,000. However, given the same basic circumstances, if that student has siblings in school, the award package could change in the following ways:
PC as a Function of Children in School
- 0 siblings in school: PC = $40,000 and HLS grant = $0
- 1 sibling in school: PC = $20,000 and HLS grant = $17,600
- 2 siblings in school: PC = $13,000 (rounded) and HLS grant = $24,600
- 3 siblings in school: PC = $10,000 and HLS grant = $27,600
As might be expected, Harvard Law School has a rich tradition of unique families and their circumstances. If you have questions relating to your family’s particular situation, please contact Student Financial Services.
Consideration of Parents’ Resources
Harvard Law School requires parent financial resource information from all applicants for HLS Grant assistance who have not reached the age of 29 by September 1 of the applicable academic year. A parental resource assessment will be calculated using standard institutional need analysis policy, and then adjusted according to the following scale:
- for students who are age 25 and below on September 1, the full calculated parent resource assessment will be used in determining eligibility for Grant assistance.
- for students who reach the age of 26 before September 1, the calculated parent resource assessment will be reduced by 25%.
- for students who reach the age of 27 before September 1, the calculated parent resource assessment will be reduced by 50%.
- for students who reach the age of 28 before September 1, the calculated parent resource assessment will be reduced by 75%.
- for students who reach the age of 29 (or above) before September 1, no parent resource assessment will be calculated, and the submission of parentsâ€™ financial data will not be required.
Note: Depending on the amount of income and assets involved, the calculated assessed parent resource figure can exceed the total cost of attendance for a given academic year. For the purposes of determining an adjusted parent resource assessment as described above, the calculated assessed parent resources, even if it exceeds the cost of attendance, is always used.
Students who do not expect to qualify for Grant assistance may apply under a simplified “loan only” status and will not be required to submit parent financial information. Since students applying under “loan only” status are not eligible for HLS Grant assistance, a parental resource assessment will not be calculated or imputed.
In rare and exceptional cases, the Financial Aid Committee may waive the required submission of parental information. These decisions are made on a case-by-case basis depending on the particular circumstances involved, and third-party verification of the circumstances is required. See Appeals for Waiver of Parental Information for more details.
Expectations of Parents
As indicated, parental information is required of all students applying for HLS Grant assistance. This information is used to determine the overall integrity of a family’s financial situation. The parent resource assessment represents more than 100 data points applied to a series of standardized need analysis calculations. While the resource assessment is designed to describe a family’s overall ability to assist the student, we recognize that for a variety of reasons a family may choose not to provide financial assistance to the student in any given year. This is a decision that lies solely with the family.
Harvard Law School does not assume that parents will actually provide any assistance toward the pursuit of their children’s legal education. While we use parent resources as an integral part of the rationing mechanism for grant eligibility, we have no expectations of what any given parent/family will actually do. At no time does HLS bill parents for any part of the amount represented by the parent resource assessment. A Harvard University billing statement is e-mailed directly to the student monthly. The student does have the option of listing an alternative “Authorized Payer(s)” for his/her termbill.
In cases where the parent resource assessment is not available to the student, the student has the option of using educational loans to replace assessed parent resources. In general, any gap between the student’s total resources and the official Cost of Attendance can be covered through educational loans.
Determination of Assessed Family/Parent Resources
The parent resource assessment is calculated by considering the family’s financial strength — their income and assets. Some of the other factors that are considered include the number of family members, the number of family members in college or graduate/professional school, the amount of taxes paid, the cost of living in a particular state, and the age of parents.
Harvard Law School utilizes an Institutional Methodology (IM) for its need analysis calculations. This IM need analysis formula is a nationally accepted tool that is maintained by the College Board to assist colleges, universities, and private scholarship programs in determining eligibility for institutional and private financial aid funds. Financial Aid Officers review this analysis in addition to considering all of the other information provided as part of a studentâ€™s financial aid application and make adjustments as necessary based on current institutional policies and procedures which change annually.
In general, on the income side parents can expect to see a parent resource assessment from income that is roughly 22% to 47% of their available income. Available income is not the same as gross income or adjusted gross income or even net income. It is a calculated number that is determined by the need analysis process. It is a measure of what is available from a family’s income after subtracting taxes, a living allowance based on family size and state of residence, and other allowances as determined annually by Harvard Law School’s Financial Aid Committee.
As far as assets are concerned, the parents can expect to see a parent resource assessment from assets that is roughly 3-6% of their adjusted net worth. Adjusted net worth again is a calculated number determined by the need analysis process. The determination of adjusted net worth takes into account things such as, a protection of a portion of assets needed for retirement, home maintenance, and future education of any children in the household that are still under 18, and assumes that a small portion of the remainder can be combined with the available income to determine the total available family resources for financing education.
The total assessed family/parent resources is the sum of the income and asset resource assessments. This number is then adjusted to take into account situations in which there may be more than one child in a family who is attending a full-time higher education program at the same time. Adjustments such as this are made for biological siblings or “half-siblings” only and not for parents who may be attending school on a part-time or full-time basis. Parents who are enrolled in school should note this on one of our institutional data collection forms and indicate any out-of-pocket expenses incurred for their course of study. Depending on the circumstances, Financial Aid Officers may make an additional allowance against family income for such expenses during their review of need.
Types of Assets Considered
To determine a student’s eligibility for financial assistance at Harvard Law School, we factor all asset types (liquid and non-liquid) in the calculation of assessed parent resources*. This includes — but is not limited to — the following asset types listed in order of general decreasing liquidity:
- checking and savings accounts
- money market accounts
- certificates of deposit
- mutual funds
- 529 plans
- all types of real estate equity (i.e., primary RE, investment RE, vacation RE, etc.)
- business or farm equity (as evidence from the existence of a Schedules C, F 1120, 1120S, or 1065)
- irrevocable trust funds and other non-liquid assets**
- retirement accounts***
- and any other asset type not specifically mentioned here
* In the case of divorced parents who have re-married (someone other than the student’s other parent), we look at the total combined assets of both the parent and step-parent — regardless of who holds the asset — and then protect 1/2 of those assets.
** Any parent who either receives income from a non-liquid asset (such as a trust or estate) OR is the future beneficiary of income or assets held within an IRREVOCABLE trust/estate must report the value of the trust/estate as part of their assets. Please note that for the purposes of determining a student’s eligibility for aid, we do not consider age restrictions on trusts/estates.
*** Parental Retirement Assets (401K, 403B, IRA, ROTH IRA, and any other type of retirement account) are treated differently. While we always require information regarding these assets, they are wholly protected from the actual calculations that comprise the parental resource assessment. Reporting of these assets helps to inform our view of a particular family’s financial status.
Base Year for Need Determination
The base year used in the calculation of the parent resource assessment is always the most recently completed income tax year. In other words, for the 2015-16 academic year, which runs from September of 2015 until May of 2016, the calculation would be based on the 2014 income tax year. The application deadline for returning students is always set around the time that federal income taxes are due to the government in mid-April to be sure that students and families can submit their completed tax forms to the Financial Aid Office along with their other application forms.
First-year students who need a financial aid decision in March or April to determine whether or not they will be able to attend Harvard Law School are encouraged to file their tax forms as early as possible so that we may determine their need and calculate their family/parent resource assessment with the appropriate tax year information. In rare cases, we will process an estimated award, but only if it is absolutely certain that a parent will not file by the April 15th deadline. Students for whom this is true can contact our office for details on how to proceed with requesting an estimate. We do not base estimates on tax forms from prior years. Please do not send us tax forms for any year other than 2014.
When an estimate is processed, students should understand that their assessed family resources will be reviewed once again when the base year tax forms are filed and made available to us. In cases where there are significant discrepancies between the two sets of figures, students should expect to see a significant change in the estimated award offered to them.
We do not process returning student awards with prior year tax information. Returning students who cannot supply current tax information in time for their aid to be processed prior to fall registration have the option of being considered for loans only, so they can have loan proceeds available to them to clear their bill for registration. They then can request a re-evaluation of their aid once current tax materials are available.
Sometimes family circumstances warrant that we vary from our general practice of using the last completed income tax year as the “base year” for determining the assessed family/parent resources. For example, should there be an unexpected job loss or a drastic change in salary resulting from a forced career change or a medical condition, we would still review the family’s base year information to make an initial award. The student may then request a mid-year review once that year’s completed and filed tax return is available, generally late January or February of the academic year. At that time, we will review the base year calculation using the updated financial information. Students should contact their financial aid officer with questions or concerns about how this process might work in their particular situations.
All financial aid application information submitted by families is subject to verification should the staff request any additional documentation. We reserve the right to validate any information submitted to us and to request more complete documentation whenever needed to clarify a confusing situation. We are committed to treating all families equitably and we strive to be as fair and impartial as possible when reviewing complex financial circumstances and making eligibility decisions for financial aid.