In keeping with its financial aid philosophy and the preferences of its financial aid donors, Harvard Law School is fully committed to a need based aid program as the best way to make it possible for every student admitted to attend. The School also believes that the most equitable way to measure financial need is to consider family (parental) resources for all students under the age of 25, with a reduced assessment of family resources for students between 26 and 28. Parental resources are not considered for students over the age of 29.
We consider parent resources because HLS Grant resources are generous but limited. For the current academic year, we expect to distribute about $19 million in need-based Grant assistance to JD students. However, the substantial Grant resources available to HLS cover only about 11% of the total cost of attendance (tuition*, fees, and living expenses) for the JD population.
Although a parental resource assessment is used to determine eligibility for Grant aid, there is no requirement or expectation that parents contribute to the student’s education costs at HLS. Whether to contribute to the cost of education is a personal financing decision unique to each family’s circumstances and current priorities. Our intent is to measure the ability of a family to support the student’s education costs based on its economic circumstances. We do not presume to decide whether a family is or should be willing to make such a contribution.
Some students question the logic of assessing parent resources when no actual parental contribution is likely to be made. The parental resource assessment is a metric that allows us to distribute Grant funds according to economic circumstances as determined through a consistent system of need analysis. Exclusion of parent resources from the determination of need for Grant purposes would sacrifice vertical equity; there would be no distinction in awarding aid between students whose families have significant financial resources and those whose families have little or no financial resources. Moreover, since HLS would have the same total Grant aid pool under any distribution formula, exclusion of parent resources would not substantially improve the aid packages of most students; instead, such a methodology would shift resources from our current Grant recipient population toward families with demonstrably more substantial financial resources.
The School has made a significant commitment to support those who may not qualify for Grant aid and will face a significant debt burden that could eliminate the opportunity to pursue public service or relatively low-paying private sector work. Through the Low Income Protection Plan (LIPP), HLS provides need-based grants after graduation to assist in the repayment of loans. Loans that are taken to replace imputed parent resources are eligible for LIPP assistance.
* Please note that every HLS student receives an implicit subsidy from the school’s endowment. Tuition charges cover only about 60% of what it costs to provide educational services to students each year. The remaining 40% of this cost is provided from past and present gifts to the Law School by alumni/ae and others interested in supporting education at the school. Past and present alumni/ae gifts also provide need-based financial aid, which further lowers the cost of attendance for financially needy students.