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Should I Apply for Grant Aid?

Harvard Law School offers two types of application for aid. You can apply as a "regular applicant" to be considered for HLS Grant assistance, or you can apply as a "loan only applicant" which will greatly simplify the application process but exclude you from consideration for Grant aid. For "loan only" applicants only student information is required; no parental financial information is required or collected. 

HLS collects and analyzes parent financial data for all "regular applicants" (applicants for Grant aid) who have not reached the age of 29 by the beginning of the applicable academic year. You can read more about why we assess parent financial resources here. We collect financial data from both of the student's biological parents (described as "parents" herein), even if the parents are divorced and have remarried. We do not typically consider step-parents financial resources and will adjust the financial data of remarried biological parents to exclude step-parent income and 50% of the combined assets.

Because the amount of information we require for parents resource assessment can be significant, we offer some general guidelines below to help you determine whether to apply as a "regular applicant" for Grant aid or as a "loan only applicant." Please bear in mind that our need analysis looks at dozens of specific data points for a typical family. It is not possible to reliably estimate a resource assessment from one or two data points. That being said, virtually all recipients of HLS Grant assistance come from families whose combined income from all sources is less than $180,000. Of students whose families reported more than $180,000 in income for the year, those receiving Grant assistance usually had one or more siblings in college, qualified for a substantial age based adjustment, or came from families who reported special circumstances meriting significant adjustments to the need analysis formula. Overall, less than 5% of aid applicants from families with more than $180,000 in income qualify for Grant assistance, and in these cases the amount of Grant aid awarded is generally small.

One significant factor in determining Grant eligibility is whether you have any siblings in college or graduate school. We calculate a single assessed parent resource figure based on the financial data provided, and then divide that figure by the number of full-time college or graduate school students in the parents' family. Consequently, students with siblings in college or graduate school may be more likely to qualify for grant assistance at an income in the upper range described above than students who will have no siblings in college or graduate school. In fact, it is unusual for students with no siblings in college or graduate school and parental income in excess of $150,000 to qualify for HLS Grant assistance. For those aid applicants who have younger siblings in high school or grade school, an automatic adjustment is built into the need analysis formula to reflect the family's living expenses and college savings needs for those siblings.

Another significant factor is whether you qualify for an age-based adjustment to your parent resource assessment. HLS calculates a reduced parent resource assessment for students between the ages of 26 and 28. This can increase your eligibility for Grant assistance. If you qualify for an age-based parent resource reduction and fall within the guidelines below, you should consider applying for Grant assistance, if only to allow us to calculate a baseline parent resource assessment for you.

If you do not have any siblings in college, you should consider applying as a "regular applicant" for Grant assistance if:

  • your parents' total family income (not the AGI on your tax return, but your actual gross income from all sources before deductions) is less than $180,000 per year and
  • your parents' net worth (from all investments excluding savings in qualified retirement accounts, plus home equity, plus other savings, trusts, business value, and real estate equity) falls within the range typical for the HLS Grant recipient population, which is $0 to $500,000
  • please note that if your parents' income exceeds $150,000 there is a low likelihood that you will qualify for HLS Grant assistance

If you have siblings in college, you should consider applying as a "regular applicant" for Grant assistance if:

  • your parents' total family income (not the AGI on your tax return, but your actual gross income from all sources before deductions) is less than $250,000 per year and
  • your parents' net worth (from all investments excluding savings in qualified retirement accounts, plus home equity, plus other savings, trusts, business value, and real estate equity) falls within the range typical for the HLS Grant recipient population, which is $0 to $500,000
  • please note that if your parents' income exceeds $180,000 there is a low likelihood that you will qualify for HLS Grant assistance

Even with above guidelines, it is not easy to estimate the likelihood that you will qualify for Grant assistance from only gross income and total net worth. Our need analysis process considers dozens of specific data points. Generally, however, the lower the income and assets, the more likely the parental resource assessment is likely to fall within a range that allows us to offer you Grant aid. Families with incomes approaching $180,000 are much less likely than those with incomes of less than $60,000 to qualify for Grant aid. Although assets are a relatively smaller factor than income in the need analysis formula, families with very high net worth are less likely to qualify for substantial Grant aid than those at similar incomes with moderate net worth. Some families with very low income and very high net worth may qualify for Grant assistance.

Finally, student income and assets are also a factor in how we award Grant assistance. If you (the student) have significant income or high assets, these are considered as part of your student contribution in our evaluation process, and will reduce the level of Grant assistance you are offered.

Here are some overview statistics on our Grant recipient population:

  • Approximate median total income for Grant recipient families: $95,000
  • Approximate median total net worth for Grant recipient families (from all sources as described above): $175,000
  • Approximate median total parent resource assessment, parent incomes less than $60,000: $2,000
  • Approximate median total parent resource assessment, parent incomes between $60,000 and $120,000: $12,000
  • Approximate median total parent resource assessment, parent incomes between $120,000 and $180,000: $28,000
  • Approximate median total parent resource assessment, parent incomes greater than $180,000: $50,000
  • Approximate percentage of applicants eligible for HLS Grant aid, parent incomes less than $60,000: 90%
  • Approximate percentage of applicants eligible for HLS Grant aid, parent incomes between $60,000 and $120,000: 70%
  • Approximate percentage of applicants eligible for HLS Grant aid, parent incomes between $120,000 and $180,000: 40%
  • Approximate percentage of applicants eligible for HLS Grant aid, parent incomes greater than $180,000: less than 5%

You are welcome to contact our office if you wish to discuss the specifics of your situation with a member of our staff.

Last modified: July 23, 2014

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