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HBS Admissions Director Shares His Perspective on HBS Financial Aid

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Chad Losee, managing director of admissions and financial aid at Harvard Business School (HBS), recently took to his Director’s Blog to talk about how financial aid works at the school. The impetus for the post, he wrote, was having the night before attended this year’s “Fellowship Dinner,” and annual affair that brings together current students who have received need-based aid with the donors who make it possible. “It was an impactful evening (!) and it drove home a few points for me about how financial aid works at HBS that I thought I’d share,” read his post.

HBS financial aidThe hundreds of students and donors in attendance, for starters, underscored for Losee the scale of financial aid at HBS. “I intellectually know that 50 percent of all HBS students receive an average fellowship of $74,000 over the two years,” he wrote, adding that it’s money that doesn’t have to be paid back. Nevertheless, seeing these people assembled all together—filling three basketball courts in HBS’s Shad Hall gymnasium—truly brought the scale to life.

But though the numbers of people who receive financial aid are vast, the way it is awarded is very personal, he continued. “See, when alumni give, their money is not just put in a big pot and divvied up among students with need. Nor are fellowships a behind-the-scenes way of discounting tuition for some students.” He wrote. “The funds are real money from real people, and each donor’s contribution goes to a specific student.”

Who Receives Financial Aid at HBS? And How Much?
According to the school’s website, HBS awards need-based fellowships to make it possible for admitted students with limited financial resources to attend. Students with financial need can apply for HBS Fellowships after they have gained admission to the MBS program. (Admission is need-blind.) As Losee pointed out, half the class receives financial aid of some sort, with an average fellowship amount of $37,000 per year.

The amount of financial aid a student receives is based entirely on financial need—professional performance and merit are not considerations—according to the website. Financial need is determined based on an analysis of the prior three years of income and assets of the student—and for married students, of their partners.

The HBS website reads:

“In general, we expect that a student will have saved a percentage of his/her income from each of the prior three years. This expected percentage will vary depending on your prior income. Students with higher earnings are expected to contribute to the costs of their MBA at a higher rate than students with lower earnings.”

A loan package constitutes the foundation of a student’s financial aid, and the average MBA debt for the Class of 2016 was $84,000, the school notes. HBS Fellowships are awarded to cover financial need that exceeds the student contribution based on prior income and assets and the base scholarship package. More details about HBS treats retirement and other assets as part of financial need calculations is here.

Meeting Fellowship Donors Face to Face
The Fellowship Dinner, then, brings those giving and receiving together, giving students an opportunity to personally thank their benefactors. “At my table last night, I saw great conversations, genuine heartfelt gratitude, and budding mentor relationships take hold. It was moving,” said Losee.

The final thing that jumped out to Losee was the alumni donors’ commitment to financial aid and to the individual students it helps support. Busy people who live all over the world, they turned out in numbers to support the students, not only financially but also in person. “Many were fellowship recipients themselves as HBS students and feel an enduring connection to the school,” said Losee.

For more information on financial aid at HBS, click here.