April 15, 2009
by Kerry M. King ('85)
Sally Donahue, director of financial aid and senior admissions officer at Harvard, talked about efforts Harvard has undertaken to enroll a more diverse student-body. “Nationally there is a growing divide between those who come from families with resources and those who don’t.” She noted the number of college students is expected to increase by 15 percent by 2020 and most of that increase will be students of color and students who need financial help.
Harvard has to deal with the misperception that it is only a college for wealthy students from legacy families, she said, noting that Harvard awarded $147 million in need-based aid to 60 percent of its students last year. To gain more students from less wealthy backgrounds, Harvard has expanded its financial aid programs and learned to talk to those students in different ways. To say a school is “need-blind” doesn’t mean anything to a student from a family whose parents didn’t go to college and who come from a less privileged background.