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Although government regulations specify that student eligibility for federal funds be based on the previous tax year information, we base eligibility for institutional funds on a more accurate "projected year" analysis based on your income in the current year. To determine eligibility for sets of funds, we perform two different file reviews on each student: one that conforms with federal guidelines which we use to determine eligibility for federal loans, and another which allows us to use a broader analysis and incorporate our own institutional policies to determine eligibility for our institutional grant and loan assistance.
The Law School's projected-year analysis uses the twelve-month period running from the summer immediately proceeding the academic year for which the student is seeking assistance through the end of the 9-month academic year. In this way we can base the calculation of your student contribution from income on only your summer income.
You can use the HLS Estimated Student Contribution from Summer Income Calculator to to get an estimate of your student contribution from income. This calculator is accurate for single students only.
To ensure equity in setting student contributions from income, Harvard Law School expects that students seeking financial assistance will work a minimum of 8 full weeks during the summer and will save a substantial portion of their income, less taxes paid and a standard summer living allowance, to contribute toward their education expenses. The work need not be paid or even necesarily in a legal field, but it must be full-time and for the full 8 weeks. Students who take unpaid positions will need to provide documentation from their supervisors confirming the dates and hours worked.
As mentioned above, HLS financial aid policy assumes that students will work for a minimum of 8 weeks in the summer. While most students either work as a summer associate in a private law firm or apply for funding from our Summer Public Interest Program to work in a public interest law job, we do not require you to do either of these. The only requirement is that you work in some capacity. You can volunteer, work for little pay or work in a non law-related job if circumstances require you do to so.
Since eligibility for HLS Grant assistance is directly related to the student contribution from income, Student Financial Services will assess a student contribution based on imputed income from students who do not meet the 8-week work requirement. It would be unfair for a student to decide not to work and as a result receive a larger grant than a student who did work the required 8 weeks.:
HLS always requires a minimum of 8 weeks of summer work for financial aid purposes, with the following exceptions:
Please note that other academic work -- either independent (e.g., language studies, independent research) or toward other degrees or joint degrees -- and all types of self employment do not meet the summer work requirement and an imputed student contribution from summer income will be calculated.
Many students choose to work more than the minimum of 8 weeks. If this is the case, our policy is to use all summer income in the calculation of the student contribution up to a maximum of 12 weeks. Should the total number of weeks worked exceed 12, the additional income beyond the twelfth week will not be factored into our analysis and students are free to use this money to offset future borrowing needs or to meet any additional summer expenses incurred beyond our standard summer living allowance.
As stated above, we look at a maximum of 12 weeks of work. However, if you work more than one job and each job has a different rate of pay, we use the highest paying job first when determining the total gross income to use in the calculation of your student contribution.
For example, let us say you work at one firm for 6 weeks and make $2,500/week (gross). You then work at another firm for 8 weeks and make $3,000/week (gross). You have worked a total of 14 weeks, but we will only use the top 12 weeks in the calculation of your contribution from income. The calculation of income to use would be constructed as follows:
While we expect entering 1Ls and transfer students to work during the summer before attending law school, we exempt them from the 8-week requirement; however, regardless of the length of summer work or the amount of money earned, all entering 1Ls and transfer students are expected to contribute a minimum of $2,500 towards the cost of their education during their 1L year. Even students who work all summer and do not make a significant amount of money will be assessed this minimum contribution of $2,500. This is a policy set by the Financial Aid Committee and is a common practice followed at most law schools with need-based financial aid programs.
In the case of rising 2Ls and 3Ls, HLS imputes a minimum contribution for each week (or fraction of a week) under 8 weeks worked. The imputed amount is based on the average summer contribution from income by class year from the most recently completed summer. For summer 2014, the imputed contribution for each class was:
While the Law School believes that instituting a policy of imputing a contribution for those who do not meet the work requirement is necessary to ensure fairness for everyone, we also recognize that there may be some situations that warrant an exception to this policy. If you are unable to work for either a medical reason or another compelling reason, we encourage you to speak to your Financial Aid Officer and/or submit information detailing your circumstances with your application.
Returning students who have completed the minimum work requirement, but have held a low-paying job (as is the case with many public interest jobs) and do not have income which exceed the basic summer living allowances will not be expected to contribute anything from their summer income. Please note that all students will continue to be assessed a student contribution from assets regardless of summer income earned. For more information, please see Student Contribution from Assets
Students applying for law school assistance should plan to contribute approximately 90% of their income after both taxes and the base summer living allowance ($7,400 in 2014) are subtracted from their gross income.
|Summer 2014 Gross Income (max. 12 weeks)|
|Less||Taxes (see below to estimate taxes)|
|Less||Base Summer Living Allowance ($7,400 in 2014)|
|Equals||Student Contribution From Income|
The best way for single students to estimate the student contribution from summer income is to use the HLS Estimated Student Contribution from Summer Income Calculator. This calculator will produce results similar to the examples shown below.
Note that most employers will typically withhold too much federal tax from a part-year salary, because withholding is typically based on the tax rate for an annualized projection of each pay period. You should ask to have less tax withheld if you will be working for only part of the year, such as the summer. IRS Publication 15-T describes the procedure for adjusting withholding for part-year employees on page 36. It's up to you to request this in writing from your employer, and it's up to the employer to do the alternate calculation and charge the correct withholding.
Also note that the software package we use to assess financial resources makes tax approximations based on federal, state, and FICA tax tables that have been adopted for the academic year as need analysis standards by schools nationwide. Due to the complexity of federal and state tax codes and the timing and frequency of changes to various tax codes, in most cases these are a close but inexact approximation of what a particular individual may actually pay in taxes. The need analysis standards also adjust the allowance for state tax by state, so that the student contribution of students with identical incomes but working in different states may vary according to the amount of state tax allowance used in the formula. It is important to understand that these adopted need analysis standards ensure that the student contribution assessment for students with equivalent incomes and identical situations (such as primary summer employment state, marital status, size of family) is done in a uniform way throughout the academic year.
After analyzing actual summer expenses reported by students in the fall of the past academic year, the base summer living allowance (SLA) has been set at $7,400 by the Financial Aid Committee. Please note that $7,400 is the base allowance for every student regardless of income level. For students working at firms or in higher paying positions, the SLA effectively increases with income. The examples below assume the following: a single person working in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a standard federal deduction of $6,100, and a federal personal exemption of $3,900. For the sake of clarity, the figures are rounded.
SPIF Exception: Because the base SLA is more than adequate to offset any estimated net income, students working in a SPIF-funded position over the summer will not have their income assessed for a student contribution. This is the one case where the effective SLA is not higher than the base SLA. In fact, the effective SLA may be lower that the base SLA, because the total income for the summer (if the student has no other employment) will be lower than the SLA. In this case, the expected student contribution from income will be $0.
Taxes: Federal taxes of $1,054 are based on the federal tax table for a net income of $10,000 (after the standard personal deduction and personal exemption). State taxes and FICA are both based on the original gross income of $20,000. The state tax allowance given for Massachusetts would be $800 and the 7.65% FICA allowance generates a FICA tax of $1,530. The federal, state, and FICA taxes are totalled to get an overall estimated tax burden of $3,384.
Estimated Post-Tax Income: The estimated total tax burden ($3,384) is subtracted from the gross summer income of $20,000 to get $16,616 in estimated post-tax income.
Base Summer Living Allowance: The base SLA of $7,400 is then deducted from the $16,616 est. post-tax income. The resulting $9,216 becomes the Estimated Net Income -- the total amount available for your summer contribution to fund your legal education.
Additional SLA Protection & Assessed Contribution: In a final set of calculations, an additional 10% of the Estimated Net Income is protected ($9,216 - 10% = $8,294). This new amount ($8,294) is the assessed SC from summer income.
Effective SLA: Adding the additional income protected ($922) back to the Base SLA ($7,400) shows an effective SLA of $8,322.
Taxes: Federal taxes of $3,304 are based on the federal tax table for a net income of $25,000 (after the standard personal deduction and personal exemption). State taxes and FICA are both based on the original gross income of $35,000. The state tax allowance given for Massachusetts would be $1,400 and the 7.65% FICA allowance generates a FICA tax of $2,678. The federal, state, and FICA taxes are totalled ($1,054 + $800 + $1,530) to get an overall estimated tax burden of $7,382.
Estimated Post-Tax Income: The estimated total tax burden ($7,382) is subtracted from the gross summer income of $35,000 to get $27,618 in estimated post-tax income.
Base Summer Living Allowance: The base SLA of $7,400 is then deducted from the $27,618 est. post-tax income. The resulting $20,218 becomes the Estimated Net Income -- the total amount available for your summer contribution to fund your legal education.
Additional SLA Protection & Assessed Contribution: In a final set of calculations, an additional 10% of the Estimated Net Income is protected ($20,218 - 10% = $18,196). This new amount ($18,196) is the assessed SC from summer income.
Effective SLA: Adding the additional income protected ($2,022) back to the Base SLA ($7,400) shows an effective SLA of $9,422.
An additional allowance may be approved by the Financial Aid Committee for individual students with documented summer car rental expenses under the following conditions:
Every year Student Financial Services conducts a Fall Financial Aid Update Review to finalize financial aid awards. All students are required to submit the Summer Income & Expense Update form. The information provided on this form as well as any other required post-award documents are used to finalize our assessment of both your and your parents' resources. This then allows us to finalize your award package and potential LIPP eligibility for the academic year. For more detailed information, please review Step 5 of the financial aid application process.
While many of our students see little to no change in their packages as a result of the Fall Update process, it is not uncommon for the package to change and the grant to either increase or decrease. The implications of such changes generally depend on the overall status of your full financial aid package prior to the Update process, particularly the following: 1) the accuracy of the total projected summer income (if married, this includes projection of your spouse's income) versus the actual income, and 2) whether or not your package is "at budget". A package is considered to be "at budget" when the total value of current grants, awards, loans, etc. is equal to the total possible student budget. The key to understanding all the implications of the following scenarios is to recognize that federal and HLS regulations prohibit any student to be awarded a financial aid package in excess of their budget.
We recognize that even though awards are finalized after the Fall Update process (described above), circumstances may change at any time during the year and a student's award package may have to be adjusted up or down as the situation dictates. Federal regulations and HLS aid policy both require students to notify Student Financial Services of the following changes that may occur at any time during the academic year (June 1, 2014 through May 31, 2015).
Required: Students who have experienced any of the following MUST file a formal appeal:
In addition, there are other situations of life changes that may merit a re-examination of a student's award package. These usually include the following optional bases for a formal appeal. If you have questions about a situation not listed here, please contact your financial aid officer for guidance.
Optional: Students MAY submit a formal appeal in any of these situations if they would like a reconsideration of their award package:
The formal appeal document can be found on the forms page of our website located here.
Students who will be married during the school year are expected to report their spouse's summer and academic year income (i.e., income from June 2014 -- May 2015) as well as their own for the same periods. The Law School's policy is to assume that the full income and resources of the spouse (or spouse-to-be) will be available to help meet both basic family living expenses and, if substantial enough, to help contribute towards the cost of the student's legal education. For more information on the treatment of married students in our need analysis, please review the information on the page entitled Married Students and Students (Both Married Single) with Dependent Children.
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