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Widener Library in Harvard Yard.

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Campus & Community

Extending financial aid beyond the Yard

4 min read

$2K ‘launch grants’ will help low-income students meet post-Harvard challenges

For many students, preparing for post-Harvard life — paying for graduate school test prep or traveling to a job interview, for example — can be daunting. A new “launch grant” will provide help to almost a quarter of students navigating these costs.

Students with zero parent contribution — those whose annual family income is $85,000 or less — will now receive a $2,000 launch grant in the fall of their junior year. For this year only, the grant will also be given to seniors who meet the criteria.

“As we prepare our students for lives of meaning and purpose after Harvard, we want them to know that no dream is too big,” said Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Hopi Hoekstra. “Our alumni are leaders across all sectors and around the globe. Giving our students every opportunity to follow where their passions lead them, to make their unique contribution to the world, is an important investment in Harvard’s global impact.”

The launch grant is the latest expansion of Harvard’s robust investment in financial aid. Harvard has awarded more than $3 billion to undergraduates since launching the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative in 2004. In 2016, the Griffin Financial Aid Office announced the establishment of a start-up grant for incoming first-years with zero parent contribution. Currently, those students receive $2,000 at the beginning of their time as an undergraduate to meet the additional hidden costs they face in their transition to Harvard.

2023 financial aid data

  • 24% of undergraduates come from a family whose annual income is $85,000 or less.
  • $0 expected family contribution for families with incomes below $85,000.
  • 55% of Harvard undergraduates receive financial aid.
  • Over 80% of the Class of 2023 graduated debt-free.
  • $3 billion-plus in undergraduate financial aid has been awarded since launching the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative.
  • 200% increase in the undergraduate financial aid budget from $80 million in 2005 to $246 million in 2023.

“The Financial Aid Office is continuing to remove barriers for students so they can take full advantage of all that Harvard has to offer, both during Harvard and as they prepare for life after Harvard,” said Jake Kaufmann, Griffin Director of Financial Aid.

The launch grant aims to provide additional support to highly aided students to purchase professional clothes or attend a networking conference, however, there is no restriction on use for the grant, which was made possible by multiple donors. Paul B. Edgerley, M.B.A. ’83, and Sandra M. Edgerley ’84, M.B.A. ’89, longstanding supporters of the University and champions of financial aid, were the first to offer substantial and early support for the program. The cumulative generosity of the Edgerleys, along with John Irving ’83, M.B.A. ’89, and Elizabeth Irving, Jonathan C. Korngold ’96, M.B.A. ’01, and Kristy Korngold, and two anonymous donors, will provide expanded financial support to students in a key transitional moment of their Harvard journey.

“The launch grant is critical to Harvard’s commitment to helping students fully engage with their academic and post-Harvard careers. It will allow students with need-based expenses to pay for test prep, travel, and other constraints that make it difficult to take full advantage of opportunities to pursue one’s calling,” said Danoff Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana. “By expanding support of our students’ financial needs, we hope to foster the conditions necessary for their post-Harvard life.”

“The goal is to make sure every benefit of the Harvard experience is able to be realized by every student. When access to those benefits is influenced by a student’s financial resources and ability, we want to try to offset that in some meaningful way,” Mignone Center for Career Success Director Manny Contomanolis said. “This program is really designed to help lower those financial barriers for students and help them participate fully in the amazing Harvard experience.”

Innocent Munai ’25, called the launch grant “a lifeline” and feels incredibly empowered to have the support for professional and personal development.

“Coming from Tanzania, East Africa, and being on full financial aid here, every opportunity like this represents more than just financial support; it embodies hope, validation, and a reminder that my dreams and aspirations are recognized, valued, and supported, and it ignites an even stronger desire to excel and give back to the community,” Munai said.

Classmate Maryam Guerrab ’25 hopes to use the launch grant to partially finance future service opportunities both in the U.S. and abroad, as well as pay for test prep materials for the Medical College Admission Test.

Said Guerrab, who is concentrating in government with a secondary in global health and a citation in Arabic:

“The launch grant is incredibly important for low-income students in order to limit the financial burden we experience as students and decrease the inequity in opportunity between students of different socioeconomic classes.”