Campus & Community

Financial aid for graduate students to increase

4 min read

Cost savings in Central Administration boost graduate student financial aid by $3 million

Financial aid to graduate students will increase by $3 million next year, thanks to significant cost savings achieved by collaborative efforts in the University’s Central Administration to maintain level funding for fiscal year ’05.

The funds created from the savings will boost the ongoing effort to enhance financial aid for graduate students, launched by President Lawrence H. Summers. In January 2003, Summers announced a Presidential Scholars program and other financial aid initiatives designed to ease financial burdens for students in fields that do not offer high financial returns.

In the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), the allocation will contribute substantially to a goal of providing all students in the social sciences and humanities with two-term dissertation completion fellowships.

“These fellowships will help boost our students into the next phase of their careers, in a timely fashion. At the dissertation stage, time to write, amid relative freedom from financial worry, is more valuable than ever,” said William C. Kirby, dean of the FAS and Geisinger Professor of History. “Our students deserve optimal conditions for completing this stage of their scholarly training. I am most grateful for President Summers’ support in this initiative.”

“Dissertation fellowships not only help graduate students complete their degrees in a timely fashion, they also help us to recruit the best students to our various programs,” said Peter Ellison, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and Cowles Professor of Anthropology. “Separating dissertation fellowships from teaching fellowships also helps to improve the performance of graduate students as section leaders in humanities and social science undergraduate courses. It is a win-win-win situation.”

Harvard Divinity School will use the additional funds to cover 100 percent of next year’s tuition and fees for about half of those master’s level students who carry more than $40,000 of debt to date. The Graduate School of Design plans a 10 percent increase to master’s degree grant recipients’ financial aid allotments.

“The Divinity School has a remarkable student body made up of academic high achievers who are also committed to careers of public service in a variety of sectors,” said William Graham, dean of the Harvard Divinity School, Albertson Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, and O’Brian Professor of Divinity. “Such careers – whether in religious organizations, nongovernmental organizations, governmental departments, or education – pay poorly, and thus the ability to meet these students’ financial aid needs is both a moral and an academic imperative. The new monies are a significant step towards meeting this imperative.”

The savings are the result of a yearlong strategic effort to maintain level funding for Central Administration for fiscal year ’05, beginning July 1. Last fall, in response to Harvard’s need to invest in academic priorities, Summers directed the University’s Central Administration to undertake a financial planning review to evaluate business practices and priorities for efficiency and effectiveness.

Through a collaborative process that involved employees from all of Central Administration’s departments, a task force identified process efficiencies and administrative savings that allowed the 1,000-employee, $140 million unit to maintain the same bottom-line spending as the previous fiscal year even as structural expenses, such as benefits and negotiated salary increases, rose.

Adding to the challenges associated with maintaining level funding, the University faced a 25 to 45 percent increase in fringe benefit costs, driven primarily by cost increases in Harvard’s generous health care coverage.

The examination of Central Administration budgets drew on extensive employee involvement and feedback to carefully examine the delivery of services across Central Administrative units. Among the efficiencies identified were leveraging purchasing power by making travel arrangements through one company, Expedia, and eliminating paper pay stubs. Strategic efforts involving the delivery of enhanced University Web services, space planning, and University communications are continuing.

Outsourcing of certain human resources and benefits functions, such as the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program, many of the services of the Office of Work/Life and Family Resources, and the administration of Harvard’s pension plans for faculty and staff, reduced costs while continuing to provide excellent and in some cases enhanced services to employees. A net loss of approximately 60 jobs out of a total workforce of 1,000 is expected when the Central Administration’s reorganization is complete.

The Central Administration comprises the core administrative departments reporting to the president, provost, and vice presidents that support University-wide functions. These include real estate, information technology, financial administration, legal and police services, alumni affairs and development, human resources, and government, community, and public affairs.