Fellowships and Financial Aid at HBS

The fellowship program could well be the most misunderstood process in the whole of HBS. When I got my HBS admit, the first thing I did was read Ahead of the Curve , in which the author described admits who emptied their bank accounts, bought BMWs and managed to get a significant amount of financial aid by doing that.

As I sat down with Kerry Cietanno, of Director of Donor Relations, my main aim was to understand the workings of this department better replica watches. Having served 3 deans now, Kerry has seen the fellowship budget grow from $7 Mn in 2000 to $21 Mn in 2010. I am overwhelmed by the number. I asked Kerry how the fellowships are allocated and why there is this perception, perpetuated in part by the book, that the allocation might not be completely fair.

The HBS admissions policy is completely need blind and the MBA fellowship program is completely need based. In fact, HBS and Stanford are the two schools among our peer business schools that awards financial aid primarily based on financial need.  The overarching aim of the fellowship program is to keep student debt at a level which doesn’t impede their pursuit of a career path.   Most business schools employ merit aid as a way to shape their class profile; this is not a path that HBS has chosen. However, very few students choose other schools over HBS for purely financial reasons.

I was impressed and so I enquired further about how a student’s financial aid package is determined. Kerry explained to me that for every admit who applies for financial aid, there is a formula that determines his/her individual financial need based on his/her individual circumstances and the overall fellowship budget and comes up with a fellowship award. The financial need is measured by taking into account their income for the last 3 years, assets owned, spouse’s income (if any) and outstanding undergraduate debt. She also mentioned that parents’ income is not taken into account while calculating the financial aid package as students are considered independent. I pressed her further on this point and asked her if HBS would consider revising this policy especially for students from industrial or family business backgrounds. Kerry said that it is unlikely for the policy to change in the future.

Once the financial information for all admits is available, the Financial Aid office matches them with the individual fellowship funds. In the most likely situation, the same fellowship award is available to admits in their EC year as well. The awards come out of the 400 different endowment and current-use funds made possible through the generosity of contributions from alumni and friends, the latest being the Class of 2010 fellowship, that was created through the graduating class gift, a tradition that is being carried on by the Class of 2011.

Kerry mentioned that the system tries its best to match the most deserving students and there are mechanisms in place to detect anybody from potentially gaming the system. She said that Ahead of the Curve was probably overstated. She also mentioned that the requirement to present the past 3 years income effectively bumps out high earners from the formula.

“We expect students to be respectful of our generous donors and of their peers and complete their financial aid documentation accurately and completely. In addition to having student submit tax filings for the three years prior to enrolling //www.replicaforbest.co.uk/replica-breitling-watches-sale-for-uk.html, we have added new questions in the financial aid application and require HBS Fellowship recipients to complete an additional certification before receiving any fellowship funds.”

-Susan Gilbert, Director, MBA Financial Aid

The conversation then moved on to the alumni who donate. Kerry noted that donating is a very personal thing for each alumni. Many alumni were themselves recipients of fellowship and they understand the opportunity that it provides for students who might otherwise not be able to afford an MBA education.

HBS organizes an annual fellowship dinner for the alumni who donate to the funds and the students who receive them and many donors come in from as far as London, Hawaii and South Africa to attend. This gives donors a chance to interact with the students, learn about their experiences and even sit in a class or two to get a feel for the current MBA classroom.

In parting, I asked Kerry what message she has for current students who are recipients of this generosity. She said that the financial aid that students receive and the infrastructure they have available to them for the two years that they are here is in large part due to the school’s alumni, many of whom will never personally meet the beneficiaries of their contribution. The alumni have great trust in both the leadership and mission of the School and chose to invest in its future.

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