Parent resources are calculated by a nationally accepted institutional methodology formula, coordinated by the College Scholarship Service (CSS).
Although the Law School has generous funding for institutional grant assistance, its funding is not unlimited. In order to ensure that the allocation 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 determining the eligibility of 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 HLS SFS’s Student Application Form found within the SFS Self-Service Portal. In addition, the Parent Application and all tax/income documentation (copies of parents’ individual tax returns, W2s, and all schedules) must also be submitted in the SFS Self-Service Portal. Students whose parents are unable or unwilling to submit required financial information will not be considered for HLS Grant assistance. 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 to be submitted within the SFS Self-Service Portal.
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 parental resources 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 ALL parents, including biological parents, step-parents, adoptive parents and legal guardians even in cases where parents are divorced, on all applicable application forms. In cases where a student’s parents are divorced or separated, we still require information from both parents regardless of who may or may not have had custody of the student as a minor. The application provides space for representing “Household 1” and “Household 2” separately. If one or both parents have remarried, we also require information on the step-parent’s finances and assets. For the purposes of determining 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, adoptive parent, or legal guardian or individually by the biological parent, adoptive parent, legal guardian 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.
Please note that HLS only adjusts parent resources for enrolled siblings under the age of 29. This is in line with our policy about independence which starts when a student is age 29 by Sept 1 of the academic year for which they are applying for aid.
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 HLS student completes and submits to SFS in August and September. After submitting the form, HLS students are required to inform SFS immediately if any of the enrollment information changes and failure to do so could result in disciplinary action with the Administrative Board. Additionally, SFS reserves the right to request enrollment documentation from the family member’s school, and/or to follow-up to confirm enrollment at any point during the academic year.
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 updated financial aid package and HLS grant eligibility. This is because the calculated parent resources 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, if the student has one qualifying sibling, the calculated parent resources would be divided in half, which would increase the possibility for the student to receive HLS grant. We recommend navigating to our Video Library to watch our 3-minute video “How does sibling enrollment impact my Parent Resources?”
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 information from all applicants for HLS Grant assistance who have not reached the age of 29 on or before September 1 of the applicable academic year. Parent resources will be calculated using standard institutional need analysis policy, and then adjusted according to the following scale:
|For students who:||… the calculated parent resources:|
|are age 25 and below on September 1||will be used in full to determine eligibility for Grant assistance.|
|reach age 26 by September 1||will be reduced by 25%.|
|reach age 27 by September 1||will be reduced by 50%|
|reach age 28 by September 1||will be reduced by 75%|
|reach age 29 (or above) by September 1||will not be calculated, and submission of parents’ financial data will not be required.|
Depending on the amount of income and assets involved, the calculated parent resource figure can exceed the total cost of attendance for a given academic year. For the purposes of determining an adjusted parent resource as described above, the calculated parent resources, even if it exceeds the cost of attendance, is always used.
Again, 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, parental resources 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 calculated parent resources represents more than 100 data points applied to a series of standardized need analysis calculations. While the resource 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 calculated parent resource. 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 student billing account.
In cases where the parent resources are not available to the student, the student has the option of using educational loans as a replacement. In general, any gap between the student’s total resources and the official Cost of Attendance can be covered through educational loans.
Determination of Family/Parent Resources
Parent resources are calculated by considering the family’s financial strength — both 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 uses a need analysis formula called Institutional Methodology (IM) for its calculations. The IM formula is a nationally accepted need analysis tool developed 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 student’s financial aid application and make adjustments as necessary based on current institutional policies and procedures which change annually.
A calculated parent resource is a combination of two separate determinations of financial strength, one based on income and the other based on assets. Parents can expect to see a calculated resource 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 standard living allowance based on family size and state of residence, and other allowances as determined annually by Harvard Law School’s Financial Aid Committee.
Parents can expect to see a calculated resource from assets that is roughly 3-6% of their adjusted net worth. Adjusted net worth is likewise a calculated number determined through the need analysis process. Adjusted net worth is based on the total net worth, with allowances for the 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. The IM need analysis formula assumes that a small portion of the net worth remaining after these allowances can be combined with the available income to determine the total family resources available for financing education.
The total family/parent resources is the sum of the income and asset resources. This number is then adjusted when there is more than one child in a family under the age of 29 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 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
- cryptocurrency (including stablecoins)
- 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 parent resources. 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 parent resources is always the prior-prior income tax year. In other words, for the 2023-24 academic year, which runs from September of 2023 until May of 2024, the calculation would be based on the 2021 income tax year. The use of this tax year should ensure that all students are able to submit their documentation to the Financial Aid Office in a timely manner, along with their other application forms. We do not base provisional financial aid eligibility on tax forms from prior or more recent years. Please do not send us tax forms for any year other than the base year.
Sometimes family circumstances warrant that we vary from our general practice of using the prior-prior income tax year as the “base year” for determining the 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 determine the provisional financial aid eligibility. The student may then request a mid-year review once the most recent tax year’s completed and filed tax return is available, generally late January or February of the academic year. For example, for the 2023-24 academic year, a student would submit their parents’ 2023 taxes to confirm the change in income. Once those taxes are filed with the IRS and submitted to our office, 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. It is important to note that all changes must occur before the end of the academic year so parents will need to file their tax returns by the April 15 federal filing deadline.
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.