Following Harvard President Larry Summers’ announcement Wednesday that Harvard will devote $14 million to graduate student financial aid, Yale Graduate School Dean Peter Salovey said Yale is committed to offering aid packages comparable to peer institutions.
Under the new plan, Harvard will initiate a Presidential Scholars Program to encourage students from eight of its graduate and professional schools to pursue careers in public service. The program will offer between 200 and 300 scholarships over the next three years, so approximately 75 students will receive scholarships each year, said Joe Wrin, Director of Harvard’s News Office.
Salovey said any future changes in the Yale Graduate School’s financial aid policies will not be a direct response to Harvard’s new program, but rather a result of Yale’s commitment to offering competitive aid packages.
“It is my goal and the goal of the officers of this University to be competitive with the other major programs — and that includes Harvard,” Salovey said.
Yale President Richard Levin said the Graduate School wants to attract top students with attractive financial aid packages.
“Many millions of dollars of extra support has been put in — in incremental moves over the last three years,” Levin said.
The Yale graduate school currently offers a uniform $15,000 stipend for students in all academic disciplines.
“If we had a program like [Harvard’s] at Yale, we would be more inclined to keep within the tenets of a uniform stipend system and use it to raise the boats of those who need it,” Salovey said.
Yale Graduate Student Assembly Vice President Sven Ude GRD ’06 said the advantage of Yale’s system of financial aid is that all graduate students get similar stipends, particularly within a given program, whereas Harvard’s Presidential Scholars plan is only for the top students in the eight schools participating.
“What Harvard offers is less advantageous to the general student,” Ude said. “It’s not a good working environment and there will be a lot of hard feelings.”
In his October 2001 inauguration speech, Summers promised to work to make graduate education more affordable and said in a press conference Wednesday that the new plan was a first step in achieving this goal, the Harvard Crimson reported.
Salovey said he thought Harvard’s plan was innovative. When students take on a lot of debt to finance their education, it becomes difficult for them to seek careers in public service, which tend to be less lucrative than other sectors, he said.
“It sounds to me like it will be the kind of thing that will encourage graduate students from all over Harvard to consider careers in public service,” Salovey said. “The impact of this program will probably grow as they raise more money for it.”
Top students from eight of Harvard’s graduate and professional schools — the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Kennedy School of Government, the Graduate School of Education, the School of Public Health, the Medical School, the Dental School, the Divinity School and the School of Design — can be candidates for the Presidential Scholars program. Harvard’s law and business schools already have a version of aid with a public service emphasis, so students in these schools will not be eligible to be Scholars, Wrinn said.
At Yale, students in professional schools do not receive stipends but are eligible for financial aid.
Each of the participating graduate schools at Harvard will select their scholarship recipients based on what benefits that school and its students the most, Wrinn said.
The second part of the Harvard plan offers loans that could cover up to the entire cost of attendance for graduate students in all disciplines. Salovey said the loan arrangements would be helpful in recruiting international students, who may struggle to pay for graduate school because they are not eligible for federal loans.
Another part of Harvard’s changing financial aid policy is the University Graduate Student Aid Fund, created in November to encourage alumni support for students pursuing careers in public service. Historically, alumni have directed their donations to particular schools rather than to a general, university-wide fund, the Harvard Gazette said.