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First-Generation College Students to Benefit from HBS’s Largest-Ever Scholarship Aid Donation

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Harvard Business School (HBS) yesterday announced its largest-ever donation for scholarship aid—a $12.5 million pledge that will help support students who were the first in their families to attend college, among others. The pledge comes from HBS alumni Jonathan Lavine, co-managing partner of private investment firm Bain Capital, and his wife Jeannie (both MBA ’92).

The first $10 million will support the Lavine Family Fellowship Challenge Fund, a matching fund designed to motivate others to donate in support of the school’s scholarship needs. The remaining funds will endow two $1 million fellowships—the Lavine Family Fellowship and the Herbert J. Bachelor Fellowship—and provide an additional $500,000 to the HBS Fund for various school priorities.

The Lavines have stipulated that, wherever possible, the fellowships be made available to first-generation college graduates in honor of Jeannie’s father, Herbert Bachelor, who was the first in his family to go to college. Bachelor worked 40 hours a week while an undergraduate at Harvard College to cover expenses but still accumulated a large amount of debt, which grew larger still as he earned his MBA from HBS (’68).

Jeannie and Jonathan Lavine

“It was his dream to have his own children be able to attend college without the stress of holding down a job or the added burden of student debt upon graduation,” said Jeannie Lavine in a press release announcing the gift. She followed in her father’s footsteps, obtaining both her bachelor’s and MBA degrees from Harvard. “He was able to make that dream come true for my siblings and me, and Jonathan and I would like to pay that forward and give other people the same opportunity, especially those who are the first in their family to attend college,” she continued. “We know that intellect is not distributed based on income, and neither should a top education.”

HBS Admissions Is Merit-Based, Need-Blind

HBS prides itself on its merit-based admissions policy, which means that an applicant’s ability to afford tuition does not factor into the admissions process. Once students are admitted, fellowship grants are awarded based solely on financial need. Approximately half of the HBS class receives financial aid each year—$37,000 per student on average—and the school provided $35 million in financial aid to MBA students in the 2016-17 academic year.

“We are thrilled about this gift and grateful to the Lavine family because students who are the first generation in their family to go to college represent an important and needed perspective in the classroom,” HBS Managing Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Chad Losee told Clear Admit. “We admit based on merit and support financially based on need, which makes us different from other business schools,” he added. “Everyone here is here for a reason: because of their talent and merit and what they bring as a leader.”

Close to 10 percent of the HBS class each year is comprised of first-generation college graduates, according to Losee. “We hope this gift and this announcement will help get the word out to people from all different backgrounds who otherwise may feel like HBS isn’t accessible to them,” he said.

Earlier this year, HBS announced another fellowship likewise designed to support students with limited financial means. The Forward Fellowship, announced in July 2017, will award between $10,000 and $20,000 per year to students from lower-income backgrounds above and beyond HBS need-based fellowships. Unlike the HBS need-based fellowships, which are awarded based on students’ individual financial situations, the new Forward Fellowships take into consideration the applicant’s family circumstances and financial history so the available funds can be distributed to those who need them most. These can include not only students who grew up in lower-income households, but also those who plan to provide financial support for their parents during their graduate school careers or after obtaining their MBA.

“We want HBS to be the place where the best leaders from anywhere in the world can come and thrive and be successful,” Losee said. “This most recent gift from the Lavines is great and continues to tell the story that we want to support students when they get here.”

Lavine Family Philanthropic Roots Run Deep
The Lavines’ gift adds to the financial aid resources available to HBS students and builds on the couple’s history of philanthropy, which has long been focused on creating a more equal playing field for all through access to quality education. Jonathan serves as chair of the national Board of Trustees for City Year, an organization focused on reducing the high school dropout rate in U.S. cities. And the couple has also made major contributions to uAspire, an organization focused on providing financial resources to attain a postsecondary education; LIFT, a national nonprofit focused on breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty; and numerous aid programs at Columbia University, where Jonathan also serves as vice chair of the Board of Trustees.

In addition, they are long-time benefactors and actively involved at Harvard. In 2011, they established the Lavine Family Cornerstone Scholarship Fund to support four undergraduates annually through Harvard’s financial aid program. In 2012, they established the Lavine Family Humanitarian Studies Initiative at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health to support the training and education of humanitarian relief workers. They also both serve on the dean’s advisory boards at HBS at the School of Public Health and co-chair the latter school’s capital campaign.

“We’re proud to support the work of great academic institutions, because we know first-hand the impact they can have on the world,” said Jonathan Lavine in press release. “There is no greater way to improve someone’s future than giving them access to high quality, postsecondary education. We spent a great deal of time discussing with Dean Nohria our passion for education and how inspired we are by my father-in-law’s journey and appreciative of the opportunity our parents provided us. As a result, we decided that this is the best way to bring those interests together.”

Financial Aid at HBS Is Personal
Losee notes that the newly established Lavine fellowships also help highlight how personal the financial aid process at HBS. “The Lavines will be matched with the individual students they are supporting,” he says. “They will meet them and can develop a mentoring relationship with them.” HBS also features an annual dinner that brings together all HBS donors and the students their gifts help support, he said.

Calling them “the lifeblood of the institution,” Professor Felix Oberholzer-Gee, senior associate dean of the MBA program, noted that gifts like the Lavines’ benefit not only the students who receive them but also the school as a whole. “They allow us to focus exclusively on filling our classrooms with the very best students,” he said in a release. “Our learning community is enriched by diversity in all its forms, and the fellowships we offer make it possible to bring people here from all walks of life around the globe.”

Learn more about the Lavines’ $12.5-million gift to support scholarship aid at HBS.