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Student Handbook

Student Handbook: Financial Aid

Financing the high cost of a graduate education can be a serious challenge. The Financial Aid Office is committed to working with all students to assist in financing their education. It is important that students in multi-year degree programs apply for financial aid each academic year to maximize their financial aid possibilities. Deadlines are communicated via the HGSE Financial Aid website and through email. 

Financial aid funds are limited and are not sufficient to cover all the costs of attending graduate school, therefore all students are strongly encouraged to seek additional sources of funding. Students should check the HGSE Financial Aid website for a list of sites with information about funding. 

The HGSE Financial Aid Office provides information on sources of outside funding for both U.S. and international students. Information on fellowships is available on the HGSE Financial Aid Office website.  

Sources of Aid 

Need-Based Grant Awards 

HGSE Grant Funds 

HGSE grant funds are awarded primarily on the basis of demonstrated financial need. For master’s and C.A.S. candidates, some students receive up to $19,000 in need-based grant assistance.  

Harvard University Restricted Scholarships 

Students across Harvard University are eligible to apply for restricted scholarships administered by the Committee on General Scholarships, most of which are based on need with some additional criteria. These scholarships are listed on the HGSE Financial Aid Application. Students who believe they qualify for a restricted scholarship should complete the form by the stated deadline. Documentation of eligibility may be required. The scholarships are relatively small, generally less than $10,000. 

Merit-Based Grant Awards 

There are a variety of merit-based scholarships that are awarded, typically shortly after the time of admissions decisions. Information about the various scholarships may be found on the HGSE Financial Aid website.   


Federal Work-Study Program 

A student’s financial aid package may include a work-study award. Under the Federal Work-Study Program, a student may earn up to a specific amount for the year in an approved job. Hourly wage rates for graduate students in 2019–20 ranged from $12.75 and up/hour for on campus work, including work done remotely. We expect the 2020–21 hourly rates to be released by September 2020. Depending on the financial aid package awarded, a student may earn up to $5,000 or their awarded ceiling amount per academic year in part-time work. Federal Work-Study job opportunities are posted at the Harvard University Student Employment Office website. Students generally seek work-study positions after the beginning of the academic year. Full-time master’s students are given priority for this very limited program. 

Teaching Fellowship Program 

Ed.D. and Ed.L.D. students who wish to be Teaching Fellows (TFs) may apply for available positions after completing one full year of HGSE coursework. Teaching Fellows must be registered, HGSE doctoral students during the term of the appointment. A Teaching Fellow who is awarded a degree in November is not eligible to hold the appointment during the spring semester. 

Ed.D. students can hold a maximum of two teaching fellowships a year between years two and six of doctoral study. Those seeking additional TF appointments must receive permission from their faculty advisor(s) and the associate dean for degree programs. 

Year 2 Ed.L.D. students may work up to 20 hours per week in Teaching Fellowships and other co-curricular engagements. 

All Ph.D. in Education students are required to complete four HGSE TF “slots” over the course of their time in the program. Most students will fulfill this requirement in Year 3 or Year 4, though students can fulfill the requirement any point in the program before the year in which they receive their dissertation completion funding. However, Ph.D. in Education students are not permitted to serve as Teaching Fellows during Year 1 and Year 2 without written permission of the GSAS Associate Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid along with support from the faculty adviser. For more information about Ph.D. Teaching Fellow requirements, please review the Ph.D. Student Guide, available on the program website. 

Ed.M. and C.A.S. students who wish to be Teaching Fellows must receive prior permission of the associate director for master’s studies. Appointments are generally limited to qualified C.A.S. students and second-year part-time Ed.M. students who have previously taken the course and who have outstanding academic records. 

Details of the Teaching Fellowship Program and appointment process are available in the Academic Affairs Office and at

Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan 

This is a federal loan not based on need that is available to U.S. citizens and permanent residents of the U.S. only. This loan has a fixed interest rate of 4.3%. Borrowers may defer payment during the in-school period and for six months after ceasing to be enrolled as at least as a half-time student, however interest starts to accrue once the loan has been disbursed. Students must complete the financial aid application process to be considered for this loan. Students may borrow up to a maximum of $20,500 per year. An approximate 1.05% origination fee is deducted from the total proceeds of the loan (note that this amount is subject to change mid-year due to Congressional sequestration). 

Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan 

This is a federal loan that is credit-based and is available only to U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens. There is a fixed interest rate of 5.3% on the loan and an origination fee of 4.236% (note that this amount is subject to change mid-year due to Congressional sequestration). 

Interest starts to accrue once the loan has been disbursed. Students may borrow up to the cost of education minus financial aid received, but must first maximize federal aid program loans up to individual eligibility before borrowing a Federal Direct PLUS Loan. These loans are serviced by lenders contracted by the U.S. Department of Education, which is the lender. Students interested in applying for this loan should contact the HGSE Financial Aid Office. 

Supplemental Loans 

Private supplemental loans are credit-based and may be taken out by students who require additional resources. The Financial Aid Office administers a number of alternative loan programs. These loans have varying interest rates and repayment provisions, and students should pay careful attention to specific loan program details. As terms and conditions change frequently during these financially volatile times, please refer to the HGSE Financial Aid website for the most recent information. 

International Students 

A limited number of need-based grants and teaching fellowships are available to international students. Grants are based on the relative need of students applying for assistance and do not cover the full cost of attendance. There are no tuition waivers. International students are not eligible for federal student loans or work-study and are generally restricted from working in the United States. Therefore, even those receiving grants must have additional personal resources. International students are strongly advised to continue to seek financial support for their studies from governmental and private agencies in their home countries. International students should check the HGSE Financial Aid website for a list of sites with additional information. 

Registration and Academic Progress While Receiving Financial Aid 

Importance of Registration Status for Financial Aid 

Students must be registered at least half-time and maintain satisfactory academic progress in order to be eligible for financial aid. Students whose registration lapses or who drop below half-time for any reason (e.g. leave of absence, failure to register, withdrawal, registered for only one course) should be aware that such changes will have an immediate impact on the financial aid package as well as on the terms of repayment of the student loans. In some cases, leaves may count toward the grace period that precedes repayment of the loan. In other instances, the loan may come due immediately. Students are strongly urged to review the terms of their loans and discuss those terms with the Financial Aid Office before changing from full-time to another status. 

Students on Federal Financial Aid: Additional Satisfactory Academic Progress Standards 

All students should refer to the Annual Satisfactory Academic Progress Review section of this handbook for additional requirements.

To receive Federal/Title IV financial aid, a student must be making satisfactory academic progress as defined below. As such, at each academic evaluation students must: 

  • Maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of B- and carry no more than one Incomplete in the Ed.M. and C.A.S. programs; maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of B+ with A caliber work in some courses in the Ed.L.D. Program; 
  • Satisfy academic degree requirements as defined by the academic program; 
  • Complete at least 50% of the cumulative attempted courses (during coursework phase for doctoral candidates). Attempted credits are defined as any credits for which a student has registered in a given semester; 
  • Complete degree requirements for graduation within 150% of the normal time allotted for students in similar situations. 

The maximum time for which financial aid can be received is: 


Full-Time Student 

Part-Time Student 

Evaluation Schedule 

Ed.M. or C.A.S.

3 semesters 

6 semesters 

At the end of fall and spring semesters 


9 semesters 

Not applicable 

At the end of fall and spring semesters 


20 semesters 

20 semesters 

At the end of each academic year 

Failure to satisfy these requirements will result in a Financial Aid Warning for programs evaluated at the end of each semester. A Financial Aid Warning shall consist of one additional semester of eligibility after the term in which a student failed to meet the conditions for Satisfactory Academic Progress. Once the Financial Aid Warning period has expired, students who are still failing to make Satisfactory Academic Progress will lose financial aid eligibility, while students who have made Satisfactory Academic Progress are no longer in warning status, and will maintain eligibility. 

Ed.D. students who fail to meet the Satisfactory Academic Progress standards when reviewed at the end of the school year will lose federal financial aid eligibility for the following semester. Once that semester has concluded, they may request another review to determine if they meet the standards at that point. If so, they will regain eligibility for the following semester. If not, then until a review is conducted demonstrating that they have been able to meet the Satisfactory Academic Progress standards, then they will not have eligibility for federal student aid. 

No student may receive federal student aid beyond the timeframe noted in the chart above. HGSE does not allow for an appeal process for financial aid eligibility determinations. 

Treatment of Withdrawals, Incompletes, SAT/NCR 

  • Course withdrawals are not included in the average grade calculation nor in attempted coursework. 
  • Incomplete grades are not included in the average grade calculation, but are considered a non-completion of attempted coursework. If the Incomplete grade is replaced with a permanent grade, then academic progress will be re-evaluated. 
  • Failing grades are treated as attempted courses and are included in the average grade calculation. NCR grades are treated as non-completion of attempted courses, but are not part of the average grade calculation. 
  • SAT grades are treated as attempted and completed courses, but are not included in the average grade calculation. 

Refunds and Employee Tuition Assistance Plan (TAP) 

Refunds of Federal Financial Aid 

Students who receive financial assistance and who change their registration status (e.g. withdraw, change from full-time to part-time) should be aware that in some instances the financial assistance received, or a proportion of it, must be returned to the financial aid sources, including federal and Harvard programs, according to a federally mandated formula. Please refer to the related information section of the Financing Your Education manual on the HGSE website. 

Harvard University Tuition Assistance Plan 

Harvard University employees, including those in a degree program and those registering in non-degree studies, may be eligible for Tuition Assistance Plan (TAP) benefits. TAP benefits are considered to be a source of financial assistance and must be included in the financial aid analysis. Students who receive TAP benefits must notify the Financial Aid Office of the number of their classes covered by TAP each semester so that an accurate financial aid award can be determined. If students learn of TAP benefit eligibility after receiving a financial aid award, adjustments to the award will be made at that time. Students receiving TAP benefits are not eligible for HGSE grant assistance. For general information about TAP, contact the Office of the Registrar. 

Financial Aid Fraud

Students who are deliberately deceptive in their financial aid applications are subject to disciplinary action. If you purposely give false information in the aid application process and receive aid from federal programs, you may be subject to fine, or imprisonment, or both. If, after reviewing an application for financial aid, the School has reason to suspect that an aid applicant may have deliberately misrepresented information resulting in fraud or other criminal misconduct in connection with the aid application, disciplinary action may be taken. Referral in such cases for applicants receiving federal aid may be made to the US Department of Education's Office of Inspector General, or, if more appropriate, to a state or local authority. If evidence of fraud or criminal misconduct is documented, the School will review the matter to determine if the student should be sanctioned or dismissed.