After Harvard University announced last month it would substantially increase the amount of financial aid available to middle-class students, a number of other universities announced they would follow suit.
But the University of Michigan won’t be one of them.
Under Harvard’s new financial aid plan, students whose families earn between $120,000 and $180,000 will have to pay at most 10 percent of their family’s total income for tuition.
For families earning less than $120,000, the cost of tuition decreases as the family’s income does. Students whose families earn $60,000 a year or less pay nothing.
In 2007, two full semesters at Harvard cost about $49,000 per year, including room and board.
Harvard officials say the goal of the new aid program is to attract middle class students. In recent years, the school has had an easier time enrolling rich and poor students, than those who fall in between.
A number of universities have revamped financial aid plans since Harvard’s announcement, including Dickinson College, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Pomona College.
Pomona officials said that the college would soon replace existing student loans with grants and scholarships, which students don’t have to repay.
Pomona spokeswoman Cynthia Peters said the financial changes are not meant to compete with Harvard’s, but rather to accommodate middle class students.
“Over time, applications from lower-income and middle-income students have declined,” Peters said. “We want that pool to be there. A lot of top-tier liberal arts colleges are in the same position. They’re doing what they can to increase those applications.”
The University of Michigan has no plans to reform its own financial aid policies for a number of reasons, according to Pamela Fowler, executive director of financial aid.
Phil Hanlon, the University’s associate provost for academic and budgetary affairs at the University, said the University remains committed to making college affordable, but emphasized that Harvard and Michigan are two very different schools.
“We’re at a much different scale for one thing,” he said. “The number of undergraduates at Harvard College, according to the Dean’s Office, is 6,600 this year. We have a public mission, this year’s undergraduate enrollment is over 26,000 and so we have to craft our financial aid policies in a way that makes the most sense to our students.”
Fowler said state funds are crucial in deciding tuition costs and how much financial aid the University can give. Because of declining state funding in recent years, the University has had to raise tuition and has had less state money to put toward financial aid.
Fowler said Harvard’s substantially larger endowment – about $35 billion compared to the University’s $7.1 billion endowment – allows the school to give out more financial aid.
In addition, many of the donations to the University’s endowment are earmarked for specific departments and projects so not all donations can go toward financial aid Fowler said.
LSA sophomore Alexandra Warbasse said she thinks a financial aid policy like Harvard’s would attract more middle-class students to the University. Warbasse identifies herself as a middle-class student, and avoided applying to Ivy League institutions because she couldn’t afford them.
“A big reason that I didn’t apply to Ivy League schools – I actually retracted my application from Dartmouth – is because I knew that if I got in, the temptation would be too great, and I just simply can’t afford to pay something like $40,000 or $45,000 a year,” she said.