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According to Harvard, prior to the start of the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative (HFAI), fewer than 20,000 students applied for admission. This year, nearly 40,000 students applied to Harvard.
One big reason is the availability of financial aid by the HFAI. According to Sarah C. Donahue, Griffin Director of Financial Aid. “The majority of Harvard students receive need-based aid, and their families pay an average of only $12,000. Students are not required to take out loans.”
Since launching HFAI in 2005, Harvard has awarded nearly $1.6 billion in grants to undergraduates. Over that time, Harvard’s annual financial aid award budget has increased more than 114 percent, from $80 million in 2005 to more than $172 million in 2016.
The majority of undergraduates receiving financial aid pay just 10 percent of annual family income, and this standard holds for families earning up to $150,000 per year. Families with higher incomes can also receive need-based aid, depending on individual circumstances, including other children in college or unusual medical or other expenses.
Another big reason is outreach. According to William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid, most students — about 80 percent — go to college within 200 miles of their homes, so outreach—domestic and international—has been critical for recruitment to maintain the excellence of Harvard's student body.
Theater and Dance
Countering a national trend, interest in the humanities has been rising at Harvard. This year, applicants with an interest in the field saw a 3 percent increase from last year’s applicant pool. Students are drawn to Harvard by the opportunity to pursue a top-notch liberal arts education along with strong, almost conservatory-like training in theater and dance. The revamped Harvard Art Museums, myriad programs sponsored by the Office of the Arts and the American Repertory Theater and the new theater, dance & media concentration have created excitement and interest.
The Harvard Paulson School and the computer science concentration also continue to drive student interest in Harvard, with a 12.3 percent increase in the number of students intending to concentrate in computer science. In November 2014, the University announced plans for a 50% increase in the size of the CS faculty, thanks to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer AB ’77.
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