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HBS Adds Scholarship Support for Low-Income MBA Students

A recent Harvard graduate, Taniel Chan, whose father has been working for thirty years as a waiter in New York, now has two degrees – an HBS MBA and a Harvard Kennedy School Master’s in Public Policy.

When Taniel was studying at Harvard, he had classmates with different incomes: some had to buy groceries for their whole family, and some helped their retired parents. There was even one student who lived in a shelter for homeless people as a child and received help from a church community.

This is why Chan was one of the establishers of Harvard’s Forward Fellowship, a program which gives scholarships for students who have low incomes or have to help their poor families. This program makes sure that Harvard admits not only well-off candidates, but people from all social strata.

Low Income Is Also a Kind of Diversity

According to Chan, when someone says ‘diversity’, everyone immediately imagines a person with a non-white skin color, or a disabled person, or a female. Still, diversity is not only these things – often, it includes low socioeconomic background.

According to Poets and Quants, the new scholarship is given to people who have to provide for their families – young children or retired parents. Starting with 2020, every year there will be a $10,000 – $20,000 scholarship granted to low-income students – which is added to a $34 million funding for students in need.

The overall volume of the funding is yet unknown. Harvard’s MBA program director, Jana Kierstead, thinks that the program will work according to demand. All in all, the amount of funding for scholarship is continuously growing.

Since 2012, Harvard’s average MBA fellowship has grown by almost $16,000. Half of the university’s MBA students are entitled to some kind of scholarship or fellowship, covering a half of the $72,000 annual tuition fee.

However, in spite of all this effort, an average Harvard graduate’s student debt still amounts to $84,000.

Harward Shows the Socioeconomic Difference

Taniel Chan never felt that he was poor, although his father had two restaurant jobs as a waiter to feed his family, and Taniel himself didn’t finish a prestigious undergraduate school. Only at Harvard he saw how much socioeconomic diversity there really was between members of one class.

He remembers thinking that he was doing quite well financially – and then meeting his more well-off classmates who could travel much earlier than him. Taniel first went abroad when he was 22, and he didn’t know how to ski or swim. This was one of the reasons why he decided to help low-income students.

This new program is not primarily for minorities or women: it’s specifically for people that would be able to afford the tuition fee if not for their families whom they need to support financially.

To apply for Forward Fellowship, you’ll need to write a short essay describing why you are entitled to this kind of scholarship. By reading the essays, university officials will be able to determine who needs this help the most.

According to Jana Kierstead, other Harvard scholarship programs always look only at the students themselves and their income. This one, however, evaluates the students’ family circumstances and income. In this way it will be possible to lessen the student debt of people who have others to support beside themselves.

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