Harvard waives the fees for low earners

March 5, 2004

Harvard University has announced that families with incomes below $40,000 (£21,400) will no longer have to contribute towards their children's tuition, as middle-class anger over the cost of university tuition grows.

Previously, parents who earned $40,000 or less had to pay an average of $2,300 towards tuition before any financial aid kicked in.

Lawrence Summers, the president of Harvard, told the American Council on Education annual meeting on Sunday: "We want to send the strongest possible message that Harvard is open to talented students from all economic backgrounds."

He said promising students from families with modest means did not bother to apply to high-ranked universities, assuming that the cost of entry - about $40,000 a year including room and board - made it impossible for them to attend.

University officials said their research showed that many hesitated to add to their families' financial burdens.

Dr Summers said the university had long been prepared to admit talented students regardless of financial need, but many students simply did not know or believe this. "We are determined to change both the perception and the reality," he said.

The initiative, which will cost the university about $2 million a year, is expected to benefit about 1,000 of the nearly 7,000 undergraduates entering in the next academic year.

Studies have shown that only six in ten students from US families earning less than $33,000 attend university, compared with nine in ten from families earning more than $80,000.

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