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Determination of Financial Need

   

Each student's financial need is determined by subtracting assessed family resources from the cost of attendance (or student budget) in a given academic year. 

 Standard Student Budget ($81,900 in 2014-15)
LessAssessed Family Resources

Equals             Financial Need

    

The Financial Aid Program at Harvard Law School is 100% need-based. We do not have any merit-based financial assistance available through our office. The aid offered is designed to help students who demonstrate financial need to meet the gap between the annual cost of attendance and the student's assessed family resources.

Proceeds from tuition paid cover only a part of the total cost of providing a quality legal education to each student. Over one-third of the Law School's annual operating costs comes from non-tuition sources, such as the earnings from our endowment funds and gifts from generous donors. These funds subsidize the attendance cost of all students, whether or not they receive financial aid from the school. Endowment funds also generate the institutional financial aid funding (grants and loans) awarded to needy students. These financial aid funds are limited, however; the entire Harvard Law School grant budget covers only about 12% of the cost of attendance for the JD population.

To award institutional funds in the most equitable and judicious manner possible, we use a standardized set of need analysis guidelines to measure each family's ability to contribute to the cost of legal education. These need analysis principles are reviewed and updated annually to comply with current federal aid regulations and institutional policies. For the purpose of determining need for our institutional funds, parent resources are considered for all students except those who reach age 29 by September 1st of the academic year. We consider both student and parent income and assets in the determination of need for all institutional grant and loan assistance.

Financial aid officers apply these need analysis guidelines equitably and consistently across all students and families who seek financial assistance. This process involves reviewing and integrating financial information about each family's financial resources provided to us on required application materials. Some of the critical factors that drive the outcome of this analysis include, but are not limited to, the following: family size, number of family members in college, cost of living in a particular region or country, overall savings and assets and current income potential. The product of this comprehensive review is a family resource assessment that is used in determining each student's level of financial need.

A resource assessment is a relative measure of a given family's financial strength compared to all other families applying for financial aid in an academic year, and is best thought of as a measurement of each family's ability to finance the cost of education over time. It is an evaluation of not just a family's current resources from present income earned, but also of the overall savings and investment level, as well as the family's ability to borrow against these resources. It is important to note that we make no assumptions about whether a family will actually choose to contribute toward the cost of attendance. This is a personal and  highly individual decision. Some families may choose to use the family resource assessment as a guide to financing the cost of attendance through available income and assets. Others may expect the student to borrow through educational loan programs to meet the cost of attendance.

No need analysis formula is without its limitations. While a standardized formula enables us to treat applicants equitably, there are many special situations and individual circumstances that may not accurately be reflected in the forms submitted to our office. These situations require professional judgment on the part of our financial aid officers in order to arrive at a fair and accurate determination of financial need. Students with personal circumstances that need special attention are always encouraged to call, email, or make an appointment to see their financial aid officer. We make every effort to hear students' and families' concerns objectively and whenever possible to factor these individual circumstances into the overall need analysis results.

Financial need is met by awarding some combination of loan and grant assistance, as described on our Award Packages page. Harvard Law School's policy is to reserve institutional grant assistance for those students and families who demonstrate the greatest financial need as determined through need analysis. While many students do qualify for grant assistance, more than 50% of applicants for financial assistance only qualify for support in the form of federal and private loans. Although many students graduate with large educational loan debt, the substantial salaries available within the legal profession represent a wise long-term investment. For those who choose a career path that leads them toward a lower-paying job, we have one of the nation's most generous loan repayment programs in our Low Income Protection Plan (LIPP). Taken together, the financial aid and LIPP programs do an excellent job in leveling the financial playing field, ensuring equal access to legal education and preserving the full spectrum of career choice for all students admitted to the Law School.

Last modified: September 17, 2014

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