Updated: April 24, 2012 8:10AM
Dear Mr. Bradshaw — I plan to apply to Harvard and several other Ivy League schools this fall.
Is it true that they offer generous financial-aid packages? If I have to borrow thousands of dollars to attend, I will opt for a state school where I am sure to be admitted. — StudentDear Student
— After the Ivy League got stung with bad publicity because many of their graduates ended up with more than $150,000 in debt, Harvard took the lead and revamped its financial-aid packages to replace student loans with grants.
Other colleges quickly followed suit.
Today, 70 percent of Harvard undergraduates receive some financial aid. This is typical at most of Ivy League schools.
Students from families with annual incomes below $65,000 are not required to contribute to their educations. And families with incomes up to $150,000 pay no more than 10 percent of their income.
At Harvard, the average financial-aid recipient’s family pays only $11,500 annually.
This new policy has resulted in greater economic diversity in the Ivy League. No longer the exclusive bastion of upper-class privilege, the financial-aid program has made the Ivy League more affordable to attend than many state colleges and universities.
As might be expected, the number of students applying to the Ivy League has increased because of the new policies. However, at Harvard, the number of applications this year started to level off. A total of 34,285 applications were received, down from last year’s record of 34,950.
Two years ago, 30,489 applied and, 10 years ago, there were 18,932 applications. One change worth noting is the modest (5 percent) increase in international applicants this year, compared to a 20 percent increase last year.
According to Harvard’s admissions office, outreach to international students by American colleges and universities normally has produced large annual gains, as relatively few international students had considered coming to the United States for college.
Today, an American college education is considered an option by more international students than in the past.
Along with the new generous financial-aid offerings, expect the admissions competition to show an increasing number of international students who have stellar academic credentials.
Although you can afford to attend if admitted, the competition will be tougher because international applicants are not considered separately for admission.
Schools now pick the best applicant, regardless of nationality.