After holding tuition flat for one year, Harvard Law School will have a tuition increase of 2.8% for the 2021-2022 academic year. The following information is intended to provide some additional background on the role tuition and financial aid play in the Law School’s finances and to clarify some of the important considerations that went into this decision.
Tuition covers only 43% of the total cost of providing a full range of educational services to each Law School student, with the balance of the total cost being covered by other sources, such as the Harvard University endowment, annual gifts made to the Law School by generous benefactors, and other sources of monetary support. Taken together, all of these resources enable the Law School to pay for financial aid, clinical programs, student and advising services, library services, salaries, and the operation and maintenance of campus facilities.
Prior to this year’s tuition freeze, HLS tuition increased at an average annual rate of 4% over the preceding ten-years. Over that same time period, spending in some of our most important programs has grown at significantly higher rates. The J.D. Low Income Protection Plan (LIPP) and clinical education have been the two fastest growing items in the School’s budget for the past decade. LIPP has grown at a rate of nearly 12% per year over the last ten years, while the costs of operating our legal clinics have grown by more than 9% per year. Forty percent of students receive need-based grant aid, and that aid has increased at an annual rate of nearly 6% over the past ten years.
Determining the appropriate rate of tuition increase in any given year is complex and requires consideration of a number of short- and long-term factors. HLS elected not to raise tuition for the 2020-2021 academic year, a course most peer institutions did not follow. For the 2021-2022 academic year, the Law School will hold the planned tuition increase to well below its previous ten-year average despite substantial programmatic and infrastructure costs anticipated as a result of the pandemic.
Some may ask whether increased distributions from the Harvard University endowment, which already fund 32% of HLS’s annual expenses, might be employed to once again hold flat or reduce tuition. Payout from the endowment is determined entirely by University policy, and the University’s approach is to calculate annual payments to fund current operations while simultaneously preserving the endowment’s availability to support future generations.