Financial Aid Handbook

The financial aid handbook covers policies and procedures related to financial aid at the GSD. The information is geared to recipients of federal awards and/or GSD grant.

The handbook contains information that may pertain to all students, regardless if they receive financial aid. The handbook is distributed with the initial award letter when the student is admitted and offered financial assistance. Copies are also available in the Office of Financial Assistance, or you may view and print the handbook as a PDF using the links below.

Financial Aid Handbook 2013-2014

International Student Financial Aid Handbook 2013-2014

Harvard University

Graduate School of Design

Financial Aid Handbook 2013-2014

Table of Contents

1. Introduction                                                      

2. The Standard Academic Year Budget    

3. The Award Letter

4. Awards

5. Work-Study/Student Employment

6. Loan Comparison Chart

7. Need Determination

8. Required Documentation

9. Living within the Academic Budget

10. When Aid Does Not Cover the Budget                       

11. Loan Debt

12. Term Bill

13. Changes In Enrollment

14. How Enrollment Changes Affect Aid

15. Outside Scholarships

16. Aid Application Procedures

17. Timeline of Financial Aid-Related Events

18. Information Security

19. Federal Consumer Information/Tax Information



The Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) offers financial assistance in the form of grants, loans, and work awards.  A student’s program and citizenship may determine the awards for which they are eligible.  The GSD webpage describes the various types of assistance options based on academic program and/or citizenship. 

The information in this handbook pertains mostly to US citizens and permanent residents as they are eligible for federal aid.  However, federal regulations require us to make this information available to all current and prospective students, even to those students who do not receive financial assistance.

This Financial Aid Handbook is distributed to all federally eligible admitted aid recipients at the time of admission.  This handbook should be used in conjunction with the GSD Student Handbook. Paper copies are also available upon request through the GSD Office of Student Services.

The GSD Office of Financial Assistance, as well as Admissions, the Registrar, Career Services and Career Discovery are all part of the Office of Student Services located in Gund Hall, Room 422.  Questions about financial aid can be directed to the Office of Financial Assistance at 617-495-5455 (phone) or by email. The Office of Financial Assistance staff includes Keith Gnoza, Director of Financial Assistance, and Maria Murphy, Financial Assistance and Registrar’s Assistant. Office hours are Monday through Friday 10am to 5pm.  Students with questions or issues may meet with someone from the Office of Financial Assistance on a walk-in basis by visiting the front desk in Room 422.  Appointments may also be scheduled by phone or by email.  Students are expected to check their e-mail for additional information distributed by the aid office throughout the year.  Aid recipients need to apply for aid each year

General Information

GSD contacts

Financial Aid Office 617-495-5455

Registrar 617-496-1237

Student Services/Admissions Office 617-495-5453

Harvard University

Central University Operator 617-495-1000

University Ombudsman Office  617-495-7748

Student Billing

Student Billing Information 617-495-2739

Student Health Insurance 617-495-2008

Monthly Payment Plan 617-495-2739

Harvard University Loan Office (Perkins Loan Information) 800-315-7192

Harvard University Fact Book

Federal Loan Information

National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) – Access to federal loan information online.


The Standard Academic Year Budget


Each academic year, a standardized list of expenses is compiled to make up the student budget for the 9-month academic year (September to May).  Tuition is only one of those costs.  The budget is modest and is the basis for determining financial aid eligibility.  A student’s total financial aid cannot exceed the amount of the budget.  Categories and amounts are listed below, as well as on the award letter.  The entries with an asterisk will appear on the first Term Bill each semester. Expenses such as Personal or Room and Board will not appear on the Term Bill, but are handled by the student directly.  However, Harvard University affiliated housing charges may appear on the Term Bill.

Tuition*                               42,056

Health Insurance*                2,190

Activity Fee*                            140

Health Service Fee*                958

Room and Board               12,384

Books and Supplies            2,702

Personal                              3,202

Computer (optional)                   0          

TOTAL                            $63,632

The academic year budget for the DDes program is $62,892, slightly lower than the master’s budget because of different supply needs.

Changes in enrollment status will affect the budget (see Changes in Enrollment). 


It is required that all students own their own computer.  Please consult the GSD’s Computer Resources website for specifications before making your purchase.  A student is allowed to add the computer expense to their budget once during their attendance at the GSD.  The maximum budget increase/aid for computer costs is $2,500.  Since grants will not be awarded for computer costs, federal and/or alternative loans can help you with computer expenses.  Students are encouraged to spend/borrow as little as necessary for a computer. Those who choose to borrow money for a computer should determine loan eligibility with the aid office before purchasing it. The loan check may be given to the student before or after the purchase is made, but a receipt must be provided to the aid office after the sale has been completed.  Incoming students may add the computer to their budget during the first year, but the money cannot be released until the student has officially registered for classes in the fall.  To help reduce theft, please remember to register your computer with the police and to lock it up safely when leaving your desk.

Changes to the academic budget

Students may request increases to their standard academic budget, but only if the increase is related to the academic period in which the student is enrolled. Summer months are not included in the academic budget.

Changes in the cost of education

It is safe to assume that the yearly academic budget will increase slightly each year due to a variety of factors.  Tuition is determined annually by the GSD, but must be approved by the Harvard Corporation.  Health Insurance and Health Service Fees are evaluated each year based on related costs and services, and rates are set by University Health Services.  Other budget items such as living expenses and supplies are usually increased by a small percentage each year to keep up with standard cost of living.


The Award Letter

What should I do when I receive my financial aid award letter?

  • Carefully read your letter along with the contents of this handbook.  Make sure you understand the terms of the awards offered. This handbook can be viewed on the GSD aid webpage to make the links easier to access.
  • If the awards offered on your letter are not enough to cover your budget and you need additional assistance, please review the section of this handbook When Aid Does Not Cover the Budget
  • Review the budget items as best you are able at this point. Request a budget increase if necessary. Understanding your budget will help you finalize your loan debt.
  • Notify the Office of Financial Assistance of any outside scholarships you are awarded as is required.  There are strict guidelines to ensure that student aid, combined from all sources does not exceed the budget.  Depending on the terms and/or amount of any outside award, GSD offered aid may be adjusted.  It is better to finalize the award situation early on to avoid any surprises during the year. Please also review the Outside Scholarships page in this handbook for possible suggestions.
  • Estimate and consider the amount of debt you may incur during your program at the GSD. Review Loan Debt.
  • Review and submit any missing or requested documentation (described later in this handbook). Awards will be tentative until all documentation has been received.
  • In order to accept your award package, return one copy of your signed and dated financial aid award letter. Students who wish to decline a portion of their aid should modify and initial their signed and dated award letter before returning it to the Office of Financial Assistance.  In addition to confirming your desire to use the awards offered, a signed award letter also allows us to process and credit your awards.  If any future changes occur to your aid, we will provide you with an updated award letter. If a student is accepting the offer of admission, their signed financial aid letter should be returned no later than April 15, 2013. The aid letter may be returned along with the signed admissions acceptance form.  Keep in mind that even if you sign and return an aid award letter, it does not prohibit you from making any changes after that time.  If you make any changes after that date, such as reducing a loan amount, you will receive an updated letter to sign.

Is there anything else I need to do?

Review the next sections on Documentation to see if you need to provide additional information.

The Office of Financial Assistance will contact you regarding additional processes and paperwork. Most information will be emailed during spring/summer. 

Deferments for Prior Education Loans

Students who are attending the GSD at least half-time are usually eligible to have prior education loans put into deferment to stop payments (and interest charges on subsidized loans) during enrollment.  Harvard University participates in a national clearinghouse that updates student enrollment to all major lenders, so paper deferment forms are not required. Clearinghouse updates occur several times during the year.  For students beginning in the fall, updates will not happen until about a month after enrollment, but the changes will be made retroactively with lenders once the clearinghouse has been notified.  The GSD Registrar’s Office can answer specific questions about enrollment status. 

Also see Timeline of Events.



Anyone who is eligible for and has applied for financial aid will be notified of their award package along with notification of admission to the GSD.  Descriptions of possible awards are listed below. Aid specific to the DDes program is described on a separate handout.  All awards are considered pending until all required documentation and requirements have been fulfilled.  The GSD reserves the right to make any adjustments to a student’s aid if we discover inaccuracies relating to a student’s actual enrollment situation   Aid awards are not transferable.  Please also review the Loan Comparison Chart, and Required Documentation.

GSD Grant: These awards do not need to be repaid.  GSD grants include endowed funds that may be associated with the donor’s name. Grant amounts are tied to tuition/enrollment, so a decrease in tuition will result in a decrease in grant amount. For example, students who have a half-year at the end of their program will receive half their normal yearly grant because they are paying half the tuition of a full year. (see Changes in Enrollment).

Restricted Scholarships: The Harvard University Committee on General Scholarships administers various grants that are available for all students at the university.  Because of competition for these awards, many students will not be awarded even if they meet the qualifications.  Students are allowed to apply for these awards each February for the following fall semester.  An award of this type is not guaranteed to be renewed each year, so a recipient should be aware of that when planning for the future. Questions should be directed to the GSD aid office.  More information can be found on the GSD website.

Federal Perkins Loan: The Perkins Loan is a federal loan with a 5% fixed interest rate and no loan fees.  Interest assessment and payments do not begin until nine months after the student graduates, withdraws or falls below half-time status.  The standard repayment period is 10 years.  This loan is processed through the Harvard University Student Loan Office.  There is a limited amount of Perkins loan money each year, so some students won’t receive this award. There is a possibility that this loan may not be renewed from year to year, or may not be renewed at the same amount.

Federal Work-Study Program: The Federal Work-Study Program (WS) is a limited award that uses federal money to supplement a student’s earnings.  This award is earned through pay.  A student’s first semester is usually very busy, so some students wait to secure a job. See Work-Study/Student Employment.

Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan: Officially called the William D. Ford Direct Loan, it is issued directly from the federal government instead of a lending agency.  The yearly maximum amount is $20,500.  The interest rate is fixed at 6.8%.  For unsubsidized loans authorized after July 1, 2010, an origination fee of 1.0% is deducted from the loan amount at disbursement.  Payments do not begin until six months after the student graduates, withdraws or falls below half-time status.  The interest rate is fixed at 6.8%.  Interest begins to accrue at disbursement. Students can choose to pay the interest monthly as it accrues to avoid capitalization which occurs at the end of the grace period.  For more information, visit the Direct Loans website.

Loan Aggregate Maximums: The Department of Education has established maximum lifetime borrowing caps on federal loans. Most students do not come close to exhausting their federal loan resources before reaching the GSD, but it is something to be aware of if you already have student debt. In the unlikely event that a student has reached their maximum limit in federal/private loans, the GSD will not be able to compensate with grant funding. Please contact the GSD aid office if you may be approaching loan maximums. You can review your current federal loan debt online

Alternative Loans: In addition to the awards listed above, students also have the option to borrow “alternative” loans. More information about these programs is available later in this handbook. See When Aid Does Not Cover the Budget.     

Other Loan Limitations: Aside from aggregate maximums, students should also be aware of other loan restrictions that may prevent them from borrowing part or all of what they need through loans. Alternative loans are most often the programs with more restrictions. The GradPLUS does involve a credit check. Historically, most GSD students do pass the credit check. Those who do not pass can reapply, attempt to fix the credit issue, or even apply with a cosigner. The other non-federal alternative loans may have school-imposed limitations. More specific information will be on the GSD webpage.


Work-Study/Student Employment

Many students work at the GSD and surrounding communities during the year as well as over the summer.  Jobs may be listed as “Work-Study only” or “Work-Study preferred” due to a limited budget; however, that is the only distinction between WS and non-WS positions.  As of the 2012-2013 academic year, for on-campus WS jobs, the hiring department portion was 30% of WS wages, while the federal government covered the remaining 70%.  Those students who have WS and want to use that for a job should review the questions and answers below. 

Where can I find job listings?

GSD students should check GSD bulletin boards throughout Gund Hall. Most jobs are posted closer to the beginning of each semester and during the school year.  The Harvard Student Employment Office also has information to help you find a job online.  Admitted students cannot use WS until they have registered, and are encouraged to acclimate to their schedule before securing a job. 

Can I work off-campus?

WS can be used off-campus with non-profit and appropriate for-profit agencies. Qualified  for-profit agencies are those which are smaller, newly-formed organizations that would only be able to hire students with assistance such as Work-Study.  Interested students should contact the Office of Financial Assistance for more details. The government percentage for off-campus WS jobs at for-profit or non-profit agencies will vary.

How much can I earn?

The WS amount listed on the award letter is the maximum amount a student can earn with WS for that year.  To track earnings, multiply hours-worked by the hourly rate (do not factor in percentages).  While the WS amount on the award letter shows half for each semester, that amount can be earned anytime during the year.  There is no penalty for unused WS money and you will be reconsidered each year.  WS money does not carry over to the following year.  Pay rates may be determined by the job complexity and student’s experience, and will also fall within the established wage rates.

When can I use Work-Study?

Students who have been awarded WS can begin to use the award as soon as they have registered for their first year.  Students may continue to use WS as long as they are enrolled at least half time. WS awards may be given for either the academic year (September through May) or for summer (May through August).  More information will be distributed later in the year.

When CAN’T I use Work-Study?

Students cannot use WS until they have officially registered for their first semester. Students who take a leave of absence cannot use WS. Students who have finished their final enrollment period are not able to use WS. Students who are approaching commencement may not use WS after the last day of the exam period. Students should confirm with the aid office or their payroll coordinator if they have questions about eligibility. If approved ahead of time, students who are not currently enrolled may continue to work at the GSD as long as they are paid with non-WS funds.

How much and how often can I work?

Students may work a maximum of 20 hours per week while classes are in session. When classes are not in session, students may work up to 40 hours per week. Students with multiple jobs should monitor their hours carefully so they do not exceed the weekly limit.

Once I find a job, how do I sign up for payroll?

Students apply for a WS referral form online.

During the summer, the Financial Aid Office will send information about the payroll process.

What happens when I reach my WS ceiling?

Check with the Office of Financial Assistance to see if your WS can be increased. Because WS is a limited fund, students should not assume they will receive an increase in their award.  If no increase is available, students should check with their supervisor to see if they can pay them with non-WS wages.

If I do not have Work-Study, can I still work at Harvard?

Many employers do hire students without WS.  Individuals should check with prospective employers.

Loan Comparison Chart

The Loan Comparison Chart can be viewed by clicking here.


Need Determination

The Office of Financial Assistance at the GSD determines financial awards for US citizens and permanent residents based on information that students provide on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  Other supporting documentation may also be requested.

Once a student completes a FAFSA, The Department of Education uses that information to calculate what they believe a student can contribute towards their education.  The school then considers the student contribution (and sometimes modifies that figure), and subtracts it from the academic year budget (discussed later in this handbook).  The resulting figure is the student’s need.  That need figure serves as an assessment of the amount of need-based aid a student may receive. Given the amount of need-based aid options, a school may not be able to cover a student’s full need with need-based awards.

From a federal standpoint, all graduate students are considered independent when federal need is calculated.  However, a school may use its own criteria for awarding its own grant funds. At the GSD, grant is awarded on a two-tiered system.  For Tier 1 grant consideration the student’s financial information is considered. For the higher, Tier 2 grant the GSD considers the combined financial information of both the student and his/her parents. Based on our formula, more grant will be given to a student whose parents are financially unable to assist the student with their school costs.  A parent’s unwillingness to assist the student is, unfortunately, not factored into this consideration.  While we realize that students at the graduate level may no longer be supported by their parents, the GSD uses this method to best award available grant to students with the greatest financial need.

To be considered for a Tier 2 grant, students must provide their parents’ financial information on the FAFSA.  Those students whose parents are divorced or separated, but wish to be considered for Tier 2 grant, can access the GSD Financial Aid webpage to file parental information separately.  Parental data will not be disclosed to the student unless written permission is given by the parent.  In no way would the parental data decrease the amount of the Tier 1 grant, nor would the parent’s information affect federal award eligibility.  Students who are awarded a Tier 2 grant will be required to have their parents submit a copy of their federal tax return (upon which the Tier 2 is based) for supporting documentation.

Reconsideration of Financial Awards:

We make every effort to award students accurately based on the information they submit to our office.  We may request additional documentation if we feel it is necessary to evaluate need.  If you feel that there is some instance that may have been overlooked or needs further explanation, please submit a written request for reconsideration to the Office of Financial Assistance, and any updated figures or additional information. We do not compete with other schools’ financial aid packages.

Financial aid in Future Years

The GSD is committed to maintaining our level of grant aid to students.  Although students need to reapply for aid each year, aid will remain consistent during their enrollment as long as the student’s financial need remains consistent.  Factors that may affect a student’s grant include a change in finances due to marriage or inheritance, decreases in course load or change in program, and grants from other sources.  While grant will not be decreased without such reasons, the GSD is not able to commit to increasing grant from year to year.

Changes in Federal Aid/Alternative Loans

Most federal aid options remain consistent from year to year.  However, graduate students did see the end of the subsidized loan at the end of the 2011-2012 year.  Federal Direct Unsubsidized and GradPLUS loans are available each year; these are not need-based awards.  The Federal Perkins Loan and Federal Work-Study are both limited funds, so they are awarded less generously. The amount of Federal Perkins loan that the GSD can use has been decreasing greatly over the past few years; so many students will not receive a Perkins Loan.  For those students who do receive Perkins and/or WS and are enrolled for multiple years, we cannot guarantee similar awards each year (though we try to keep them consistent). 

Non-federal alternative private loans exist, but usually require a US co-signer.  In the past year, only a few new programs have become available, such as the Harvard University Credit Union Loan. If the economy improves, more alternative loan options may become available.

Required Documentation

On your award letter or possibly later in the year, you may be asked to provide documentation to either support the aid offered, or to help us finish evaluating your application. Your aid will remain tentative until we have received all required documentation, including a signed award letter. For issues of security and accuracy, documentation should be clearly copied and should be mailed to the Financial Aid Office, rather than faxed or emailed.  Descriptions of the most common required documentation are listed below.

Parent Tax Return: Students who are eligible for a Tier 2 grant are required to have their parents submit a complete copy of their 2012 federal tax return.  The parent’s return is not shared with the student without express written permission. State tax returns or estimates will not meet the requirement.  The return should be signed and dated by at least one the filers.  In the event of a delay in filing, parents should submit a note with the expected completion date. Parents who do not file a tax return may be asked to provide some other kind of financial document. In the event that a parents’ actual tax information is different from any estimates that resulted in a Tier 2 grant award, the grant amount may be revised accordingly.

Student Federal Tax Information: Because a students’ financial information is used as a basis for establishing need, the aid office may need to confirm the information reported on the FAFSA, especially if a student is selected for Verification (see below).  Students who are completing the FASFA will be able to choose to have their tax information taken directly from the IRS through an IRS Data Retrieval option. We encourage all students to use that option.  Students who do not select that option or students who file their return after their FAFSA has been completed may be asked to later select that option. Students who do not select the IRS retrieval method, but are required to provide a copy of their federal tax return to their aid office will be required to request an official tax transcript. Paper copies of student tax returns will not be accepted.  W-2 statements (including those of a spouse, if applicable) may also be required. In the event of a delay in filing, students should submit a note with the expected completion date. Students who do not file a tax return may be asked to provide some other kind of financial document.

Projected Income Statement: This form, which would be provided by the Financial Aid Office, is used to look at the expected year income in those cases where the prior year earnings/income will be dramatically different from those during the upcoming year.  This allows the Aid Office to more accurately award grant and/or federal aid.  The Aid Office will only ask for this document from those students who they think will benefit from providing it. In some cases, awards will not be made until this information is provided.  And in some cases, providing this information may not result in any change in the financial awards.

Value of Students Assets: In some cases, you may be instructed not to answer the asset questions on the FAFSA. However, the GSD may need this information for awarding a need-based grant.  If this information is requested, students may submit this information by updating those fields on their FAFSA. Asset information includes current values of the following items: cash, checking and savings accounts, net worth of non-retirement investments, value of a business/farm if you own one.

Selective Service: One requirement for male US citizens and permanent residents to be eligible for federal aid is to be registered for military draft OR have an acceptable reason why they were unable to do so.  The Aid Office will assist you with providing the proper documentation if required, such as a letter from the SSA.

Proof of Citizenship: In some instances, the FAFSA will not be able to immediately verify a student’s citizenship.  So the Financial Aid Office may request proof of citizenship either before awarding or at the time when federal awards are made. Generally, a copy of a US passport or birth certificate will suffice.

Proof of Social Security Number: In the event that a student files a FAFSA with a Social Security Number that cannot be verified or differs from their SSN on a different source, the student may be asked to provide a copy of their social security card. If for some reason the student mistakenly files their FAFSA with the wrong SSN, they will not be able to correct that, but will instead need to file a new FAFSA with the correct SSN.

Federal Verification: The Department of Education randomly selects federal aid recipients for Federal Verification.  As part of this process, students will be asked to verify information such as income, enrollment, size of family, and any other information that is used to establish federal need.  Verification is done to ensure correct awarding of aid.  The Aid Office will inform those selected students of information that needs to be verified.  Cooperation with Verification is required.

Other information, such as loan paperwork including Promissory Notes and Entrance Interviews will be requested during the summer months.

Living Within the Academic Budget


Living within the standard academic budget can be a challenge for some. Standard expenses, such as tuition and health fees, don’t change. Books and Supplies will be determined mostly by the courses you choose.  But Room and Board (rent, food and utilities) is the category that can vary most from student to student.  Your choice of living arrangements, mostly your rent, is the biggest factor to keep in mind. 

When planning your living expenses, don’t assume you need the full amount of the academic budget. You may be able to live for less than the budgeted amount.  Or you may also find that your actual expenses exceed the standard budget, especially if you have a family (see below).  Plan your living expenses carefully.  Itemizing what you actually spend may help you to see where to cut costs. Students on aid are encouraged to live as inexpensively as they can while they are enrolled.

The Federal Direct Loan website includes a budget calculator that may help you calculate not only your expenses, but also possible areas in which you can reduce your spending.  There are plenty of other budgeting tools on the web, so find one that works for you. Your bank may have some tools to use as well. 

Students are expected to live as frugally as possible, especially in regards to Room and Board situations. 

For those students who are unable to live within the budget listed above, budget increases can be made.  Generally, increases are granted when school-related costs exceed the budgeted amount.  Reasons for increasing expenses to the student budget include, but are not limited to: academic supplies, printing/plotting charges, living expenses, and health-related costs not covered by insurance.  Keep in mind that budget increases allow students more room to borrow for their costs, but will also add to their debt.

We have listed a few suggestions from students for lowering your expenses.

  • Live with roommates in order to reduce the amount you pay in rent.
  • Take advantage of all undergraduate loan deferments  
  • Pay interest monthly when it accrues on unsubsidized loans and/or private loans if possible.
  • Carefully consider not bringing a car when moving to the GSD community.  Parking is hard to find, paid parking spots are very expensive and parking violations are costly as well.  You may not need a car if you live close enough to the school or public transportation.
  • Ask for gift certificates where you shop most.
  • Avoid library fines, missed doctor appointment fees, etc.
  • Pay with cash or your debit card. Avoid using credit cards whenever possible. Try to limit the amount of school-related expenses you put on your credit card. Student loans usually have a lower rate and more favorable repayment than most credit cards. If you feel you have additional expenses that should be added to your budget, speak with the Financial Aid Office to see if that’s an option.
Family Expenses

Students with families should contact the aid office to modify their budget as any changes will not be made without the student’s request and permission. Generally, additional budget expenses will be allowed for children and spouse (unless the spouse is enrolled in school or employed full-time).  Students who wish to have their budget increased must submit a written request to the Financial Aid Office. 

Summer Months

Student aid will only cover the time when the student is enrolled.  Only Federal Work-Study can be used during the summer, depending on enrollment and other factors.  Students are encouraged to monitor their summer finances carefully. Summer rent cannot be factored into financial aid.

When Aid Does Not Cover the Budget

The GSD Office of Financial Assistance awards aid based on both the student’s need and our resources.  In some cases, we may not be able to meet the full need of a student with federal loans and grants.  Depending on your situation, there are several suggestions to help bridge the gap:

  • Use savings, stocks/investments or family assistance.
  • The Monthly Payment Plan allows you to pay the semester balance over four months’ time. Contact the Student Billing Office at 617-495-2739.  There is an application fee each semester for enrolling in the plan.
  • Research outside award options – see Outside Scholarships.
  • Use Work-study income to pay for out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Consider borrowing alternative loans (see below).
Alternative Loans

Alternative loans, sometimes referred to as private loans, are not generally awarded as part of the original aid package, but are initiated by the student in the event that the award package does not provide enough funds to cover the academic budget.  Many of the alternative loans from private lenders require a cosigner to apply with the student borrower. However, there are a few options listed below that do not require a co-signer.

The Federal Direct GradPLUS loan is available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Interest is fixed at 7.9%, and a 4% loan fee.  Borrower benefits also exist. There is now a six-month deferment period (like a grace period) after graduation. To qualify for the GradPLUS loan, applicants must not have an adverse credit history. Individuals who don’t pass the credit check are eligible to obtain a co-signer and reapply. Interest on this loan is charged beginning at the first disbursement, and capitalization occurs prior to repayment.  Capitalization is when the interest that has accrued is added into the balance.  More information will be distributed during the spring/summer.

Non-Federal Alternative Loan Options

The Harvard University Credit Union offers a loan for students without a cosigner. Students can borrow up to a maximum yearly amount of $12,000. Variable interest rates are at Prime + margin.  After graduation there is a 6-month grace period, followed by a 20 year repayment. Borrower repayment benefits also exist for this loan.  For more information, please visit the HUECU website.

Other lenders also offer alternative loans that will require a credit-worthy co-signer. In some cases, you may receive a more favorable interest rate depending on your co-signer. Please review the Harvard website for such options.


Loan Debt

The good news is that there are various loan options available to help students pay for their education.  But the amount of debt you will incur to attend the GSD should be carefully considered. Loans must be repaid.  Current credit card debt, as well as undergraduate loans, should be taken into consideration.  Before committing to the GSD, applicants should understand how much school will cost them and the impact the loans will have on their finances.  The types and availability of loans should also be considered. Those students who have the option to do a split-thesis or studio semester in their final year should carefully consider the additional costs involved.  See Changes in Enrollment.

Additional Questions Students Should Consider Regarding their Potential Debt:

  • How much will I have to pay to relocate to the Harvard area?
  • If my spouse is relocating with me, what are the chances that he or she will be able to find suitable work?
  • Based on my degree what salary range should I expect after I leave school?
  • How much will my monthly payments be, and how do they compare to my starting salary after school?

Estimating your Potential Debt

To estimate your debt, use the figures from your financial aid award letter.  Once your aid has been finalized, and you have considered the amount of federal and alternative loans you will need during your first year, multiply that amount by the number of years in your program.  You should also factor in a realistic amount you and/or your family may be able to contribute.  It may be good to overestimate what you will need, to accommodate for any out of the ordinary expenses or increases over the years. 

Estimating Repayment

The Direct Loan website has a tool for calculating loan repayment and also explains the various repayment plans.  The Direct Loan Program repayment options are flexible, but the longer the repayment schedule, the more interest will accrue and the greater the total amount to be repaid. SallieMae also has a great calculator on their website that allows you to list different loans and interest rates to estimate repayments.

Starting Salary Information

The following websites may be helpful in estimating your starting salary after you graduate. Salary surveys, such as those published by AIA and ASLA are be available through some libraries, including the Loeb Library at the GSD.


Term Bill

Harvard University uses a Term Bill system to charge students for tuition and fees.  Students can view and pay their term bill online.  More information will be sent to admitted/accepting students in spring/summer.  The bill website is also known by the former web address,, Students will receive instructions for obtaining a PIN (personal information number) that will allow them to access their term bill information online.   Harvard does not accept credit-card payments. 

The billing statement for the approaching fall semester should include the following:

  • Tuition
  • Health and activity fees
  • Housing/Meal Plans (if Harvard affiliated). See section below.
  • Library fines, missed health appointment fees
  • Printing and plotting charges
  • Refunds
  • Payments, including your tuition deposit
  • Anticipated aid (if applicable)
  • Reversed fees or fines

Term bill expenses are charged according to enrollment.  If a student is attending for a full year, half of that amount will be charged for each of the two semesters.  Financial aid is also disbursed in semester increments unless otherwise noted. Until loans and/or grants are credited to the bill, the amount of the award will be located in the anticipated aid column, and will then be subtracted from the “account balance” to arrive at the “balance due”.  The balance due amount is what you actually owe.  Anticipated aid will not be applied to a student’s bill unless a signed award letter has been returned.

What do I do with my Term Bill?

Any amount due must be paid.  Students whose aid does not cover their bill will have to pay the balance due before they can be cleared for registration.  Please review When Aid Does Not Cover the Budget.  Once a student has enrolled, they are expected to resolve any balance due monthly, either during the semester or during the summer.  If your Amount Due is $0, you do not need to do anything.  If you are awarded financial aid, the bill should subtract the aid from semester charges when factoring the amount due. Those students who have a credit, or expected credit after aid is factored in will be given a refund check for the credit. 

The Monthly Payment Plan

The terms of this plan allow you to pay any balance due over the four months of the semester.  A per-semester application fee (currently $35) will be added as a charge on your Term Bill if you decide to take advantage of this plan.  Prior semester balances will not be incorporated into the payment plan and must be paid immediately.  Aid is subtracted from the balance before the payments are calculated.  Participants are expected to make their monthly payments on time. Students who fail to keep up with their payments may lose access to the plan in the future.  To sign up, call the Student Receivables Office at 617-495-2739.

Financial Aid on the Term Bill

Financial aid is also disbursed in semester increments unless otherwise noted. Remember that federal loan fees are deducted from the amount of the loan.  Work-Study will not be reflected on term bill.  Students whose aid exceeds their term bill charges will receive a refund after they have registered.  All aid will eventually be deposited in the term bill.  However, aid will not be disbursed until at least a few weeks after each semester registration. We allow that time for completion of promissory notes, missing documents and changes in aid.  Grant aid will not be disbursed until all required documents have been received. 

Harvard Affiliated Housing/Rent Charges on Term Bill

Most students who live in Harvard Housing will have their rent charged as a monthly expense on their Term Bill. Those students are expected to pay their rent as it posts each month. Students who do not keep up with their monthly rent payments may be denied lease renewal options in the future.  If you are charged rent on your Term Bill during the summer, that must be paid out-of-pocket as it cannot be paid for with financial aid.

Changes in Enrollment

Commencement, withdrawal, decreasing/increasing number of credits, and a leave of absence, are all situations that would cause a change in enrollment.  All students who are expecting or planning a change in standard enrollment must get permission from the Registrar, and should contact the GSD Financial Aid Office (if they are receiving financial aid). Because aid is based on tuition charges and enrollment status, failure to notify both the Registrar and the Financial Aid Office may result in disproportionate awards.  The GSD reserves the right to make any adjustments to a student’s Term Bill charges if we discover inaccuracies relating to a student’s actual enrollment situation.  A change in enrollment may also affect the start of education loan repayment.  Be sure you know the effects of your change before finalizing any related plans.  The GSD Student Handbook has additional information about dates and enrollment.

The Final Semester for MArch, MLA II, and MDES (non-AP) Program Degree Candidates

For any of these programs, students end their time at the GSD with a fall semester (instead of a full school year).  During that final semester, students will complete either studio or thesis requirements, dependent upon program requirements. There is an option for those students to either complete the requirements in one semester or “split” the requirements of that final semester over a period of one full year (fall and spring).  Questions about credits/courses should be directed to the GSD Registrar’s Office.  Both the academic year budget and available financial aid will vary depending on the student’s choice (see below).  Aid related questions should be directed to the Office of Financial Assistance. Please review the following descriptions.

One Semester Only

For one semester only, the student budget is generally half the amount of a full year, depending on course load.  The lower budget still limits the amount of aid.  Loans are still available, as are grant, though they are for half of the normal amount the student receives for a full year.

Split-Semester Option

Students will be contacted by the GSD Registrar mid-year to solicit requests for those who wish to split.  If approval is granted, and the aid requirements are still being met, students are still eligible for federal aid and grants. For the split-semester option, only half of one year’s tuition is charged, but all of the other costs for a full year are included in the budget.  As with the fall only option, grants are usually half of the normal amount the student receives for a full year.  Those interested in this option should carefully consider the financial implications.  Although tuition is the same charge, an extra semester has living and fees associated with it.  The difference with the standard split option budget is approximately $10,000 more than the fall only budget.   In addition, there will be a facilities fee charged to everyone who chooses to split. The amount of the fee will be announced by the Registrar.  The policy for international students may vary slightly because of visa requirements; those students should speak with the Registrar about the financial ramifications of splitting. Students who choose to split will be charged a maintenance fee (amount to be published by the Registrar).

Part-time Status

When a student’s enrollment falls below half-time (8 units), financial aid is no longer available.  In addition, loan grace periods or repayment periods will begin.  Generally, the GSD does not allow students to enroll as less-than-half time.

Additional Responsibilities

Any student withdrawing, taking a leave of absence, or graduating should consider the following information regarding their financial aid:

  • The student should fully understand how the leave would affect both the degree requirements and their aid.
  • Make sure you have notified the Registrar regarding necessary approval. For graduating students, you will be contacted by your department to verify your degree requirements.
  • Whether or not you are leaving temporarily or permanently, you need to complete a Loan Borrower’s Exit Interview. This informational session will help you understand your rights and responsibilities for loan repayment and related topics.  Shortly after your enrollment has changed and you have notified the Registrar, an on-line Exit Interview Session will be available.
  • Be aware of repayment information for any alternative/private loans that you may have borrowed as they may differ in repayment policies from the federal loans.
  • Notify the GSD of any address changes (through Gropius).
  • Resolve any balances or credits on your term bill.
  • For leave of absence, be sure you know when financial applications are due for the semester you will be returning.


How Enrollment Changes Affect Aid

If an aid recipient takes a leave of absence, withdraws or drops below half-time status, their enrollment will end along with their aid eligibility.

Leaves of Absence/Withdrawals

Students who are taking a leave of absence and have received federal or alternative loans will enter their grace period and/or possibly repayment depending on prior enrollment history. It is the student’s responsibility to contact the Financial Aid office before taking their leave, in order to understand loan implications.  For federal aid borrowers who leave during the semester, a calculation will be performed to determine how much federal loan money the student is entitled to keep.  The number of days in the semester is compared to the number of days completed before the leave.  For example, a student who has completed 17% of the days in a semester can maintain 17% of the federal loans disbursed (or set to disburse) for that semester. The Financial Aid Office will perform a calculation and advise the student. The student always has the option to cancel all of their loans.  For the purposes of the federal aid calculation, the date of the leave/withdrawal is the date the student signed the Petition for Leave/Withdrawal (petitions will only be accepted if all required signatures are provided).  The official end of the enrollment date may be different from the federal calculation date. If a student does not complete the Leave petition, then we will use the date of any written correspondence or the date of meetings with faculty to discuss the leave.

When a student leaves at the end of, or between semesters, or at an early point during the semester when they are refunded full tuition, their date of separation is considered the last day of the semester in which they were enrolled at least half-time. Federal Direct, and most private loans, have one grace period (a period of no payments after enrollment ends).  Students who take a leave will enter into their grace period on their loans. If a grace period is completely used up during the leave, the student will not have another grace period but will be able to defer their loans after they return to at least half-time status.  However, after students return and then graduate, those loans will go directly into repayment. The only exception to that is the Perkins Loan which will always have a post-graduation period (6 months if a grace period is already used).  Deferment and forbearance options are available for students for various reasons, including economic hardship.

Exiting Student Loan Repayment Information

A student’s separation date determines when a loan’s grace period/deferment/repayment begins.  All students who graduate, take a leave (even temporarily) or withdraw have a date when they were officially separated from the university. Generally, it is the end of the last day of the semester which you completed. However, if you take a leave of absence, the date will be determined by the timing of your leave. Separation may also occur from a loan standpoint if a student’s enrollment drops below half-time status. Harvard participates in a Clearinghouse system that updates loan lenders of any change in status for students with federal loans.

Near the time of the end of your enrollment/leave, the Office of Financial Assistance will contact you about completing an Exit Interview - an online review of your loans and responsibilities. This is required of all borrowers leaving the GSD. Additional help or answers to questions will be provided by the aid office upon request of the student.

All students may access the National Student Loan Databaseto review their federal loans. All federal loans are reported at this site, even loans from undergraduate or other graduate schools.  Alternative private loans, such as the Harvard Credit Union, etc. are not reported to this site – you will need to contact that lending agency for balance information.


Outside Scholarships

An outside award is any grant, scholarship or loan not awarded by the GSD Office of Financial Assistance.  Students are required to notify the Financial Aid Office about any expected award from an outside source.  All outside awards are added to the aid package.  It is possible that an outside award may cause the reduction or cancellation of a GSD offered award, depending on the amount and/or terms of the award.  A student’s total awards cannot exceed the academic budget.  We try to reduce the loans first, but each person’s file must be reviewed before that can be determined.  Students should notify the Aid Office of any outside awards as soon as they know the award is definite so the combination of awards can be finalized.  However, we will make the adjustment at whatever point it is realized, even during the year.

Almost everyone wants to know where to look for sources of outside scholarships, but there is no quick answer and there is no guaranteed source for grants.

Here are a few suggestions for searching for scholarship sources:

  • Public and school libraries may carry scholarship guides such as The Annual Register of Grant Support: A Directory of Funding Sources that can list scholarships by classification.
  • Local agencies may offer scholarships for local residents.  Some of these options may work better in smaller cities.  Sometimes obvious choices get overlooked. Try contacting a former employer, local organization or a local philanthropist to see if they would sponsor your education.
  • Search the Internet for potential grants, using keywords of discipline, family origin, nationality, gender, race or area of expertise.
  • Before going through the application process, be sure to check deadlines and requirements thoroughly to avoid wasted effort.  If your information is old, contact the sponsor to see if the scholarship is still being offered.

Be careful of any scholarship search offers that ask for money as part of the process.  Some websites are good for gathering scholarship ideas, but may ask many questions that can be used in marketing for other companies.  Thorough searching on the web can produce many of the same results, but may take more time.  Use your own judgment.

Traveling fellowships, prizes and other similar awards (NOT designed to help with the cost of attendance) can be found online here.


Aid Application Procedures
First-time applicants

Applicants who are applying for admission and wish to be considered for Financial Assistance should review the GSD webpage for specific instructions and dates. Aid applications are usually due in early February. Instructions and/or policies may change from year to year.

Continuing students

Students need to apply each year to be reconsidered for financial assistance.   Re-application instructions for continuing students will be distributed to students during the spring semester.  The financial aid application deadline for continuing students is in April. Continuing student applications will be sent to students via email in the spring. Continuing student award letters are mailed on a rolling basis during the spring and summer to local addresses.

Late Applications

Students who apply after the deadline will still be considered for aid. However, depending on when an application is received, the amount of aid awarded may be affected. Those instances will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Standard Application for US Citizens and Permanent Residents

The FAFSA is generally available at most schools and libraries.  The Harvard University Design School also carries paper copies of the FAFSA.  Make sure you are completing the form for the correct academic year.  You may complete the FAFSA online.  When applying online make sure to submit the electronic signature! Be sure to use the GSD school code of E00212. Please consider choosing the IRS Data Retrieval option when completing your FAFSA.

Eligibility Requirements

In order to be eligible for, and to maintain aid, you must:

  • Maintain satisfactory grades
  • Satisfy academic degree requirements
  • Attend at least half-time
  • Not be in default on a federal student loan
  • Not have withdrawn from at least 50% of credits attempted and completed requirements for graduation within 150% of the normal time allotted for students in the same program
  • Comply with all requests related to federal verification for quality controls
  • Promptly provide required aid documentation, including tax returns, etc. as requested.
  • Participate in Loan Borrower Entrance and Exit Interview sessions

In the event that a student is making unsatisfactory progress, but is allowed to continue taking classes, the student will not be able to take advantage of federal awards. That student’s grant eligibility will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Students who lose their eligibility due to unsatisfactory progress may reapply for federal aid once it has been demonstrated that they have improved their academic standing. After one semester of grades has been reviewed, and the student’s standing is deemed “satisfactory”, the student may request federal aid for the next semester. Students with questions about the specifics of this policy can contact the Financial Aid Office.

Financial awards are not transferable.


Timeline of Financial Aid-Related Events

This timeline is approximate for events related to financial aid recipients. Date and month variations may change from year to year.

April                Open House for admitted students

                        Deadline for admitted students to decide to attend GSD

                        Tax return filing deadline

                        Aid application deadline for continuing students


May                 May graduates complete Loan Exit Interview sessions

                        Upcoming year financial aid award letters mailed to current students

                        End of spring enrollment



July                 Student bills ready for upcoming academic year


August            Aid Office follow-up missing aid documentation from student aid files

                        Fall Orientation and Registration


September    Classes begin for fall semester

                        Aid excess refunds are released


November      Open House for prospective students


December      Student bills ready for upcoming spring semester


January          The Department of Education begins accepting FAFSAs for the upcoming

                                 academic year

                        March graduates complete Loan Exit Interview sessions

                        Classes begin for spring semester

                        Refund checks for aid mailed to current students (close to the start of classes)


February        Aid applications are due for students who are applying for admission for the

                                 following year

March             Admissions decisions and financial aid letters are mailed out to admitted students

Information Security

With identity theft on the rise, all individuals should be careful to protect their personal identification information.  In many cases it is the linking of several personal identifiers that leads to the ability for someone to steal your identity, such as your name AND your date of birth.

Some of the key pieces of information that you should protect:

  • Social Security Number
  • Harvard University identification number and PIN
  • Driver’s license number
  • Picture identifications, such as driver’s license, Harvard ID cards, passports
  • Date of birth
  • Mother’s maiden name
  • Bank account numbers
  • Credit card numbers

Here are some suggestions of Do’s and Don’ts that may help you protect yourself:

  • Never respond to an unsolicited email which asks you to update your personal information. If you need to email someone at the GSD, please just include your name without another identifier such as your Harvard ID #. In most cases, your information can be identified by your name.
  • In a safe place (not your wallet or purse), keep a list of your credit cards, bank debit cards and other identification, along with the phone numbers you would use to report a lost or stolen card. In the event that your wallet or purse is stolen, you have the information available to quickly report the lost or stolen cards.
  • Don’t leave your computer unattended while you are logged in. Set up a login password for your computer.  Activate the option to request password after your computer has been inactive for a period of time.
  • Shred or destroy, rather than discard, any materials with your name and other identifiers.
  • If someone calls you on the phone, claiming to be from an agency with which you do business, be sure they can verify their identity. If in doubt, ask for a number where you can call them back and verify that it is valid working phone number.
  • Avoid emailing personal information, or attachments that contain personal information.
  • Soon after you receive them, review your credit card statements for any suspicious activity.
  • Review your credit report once a year – See Websites and Telephone Numbers on the next page.
  • Review the GSD Computer Resources manual for computer-related protection information.

For additional information, please review Harvard’s statement on information Security and Privacy.


Federal Consumer Information/ Tax Information
Consumer Information

As a lender of federal aid, Harvard is required to provide certain information to all students on a yearly basis. That information is explained in the GSD Student Handbook, the GSD webpage, the Harvard University webpage and this Financial Aid Handbook.  Some other sources of related information are general student information from the US government, and the Harvard University Police. Please contact the Office of Student Services if there is information you are unable to locate.

Tax Advice

The Office of Financial Assistance staff is not qualified to provide thorough advice relating to taxes and tax form procedures. Any questions should be presented to a tax professional, but we have compiled some information that may be helpful.

Taxable Financial Aid

The amount of a scholarship that exceeds tuition and fees (health service, health insurance and the activity fee) is taxable.  This instance happens infrequently, but when it does the amount over tuition and fees will be paid in the form of a stipend. A stipend is simply a check for the amount of grant that exceeds tuition and fees. The stipend amount may be labeled for a certain purpose or can be used for living expenses or additional Term Bill charges.  Since the amount of grant that exceeds tuition and fees is taxable, it should be reported as such on both your tax return and your FAFSA.  Generally, any time you receive an award in the form of a check, it is subject to tax (not including refunds). Stipend recipients should keep their award letters for tax purposes.  Because financial aid personnel are not trained in tax regulations, all tax questions should be directed to a professional consultant.

Student Aid and Taxes

Students should review the IRS website for up-to-date tax incentives for students on aid.

Publication 970 on the website for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will have more specific information and tax forms concerning the taxability of various types of educational assistance, including scholarships, fellowships, and tuition reductions.

Tax forms and publications

IRS forms and publications can be downloaded from their website.  Local libraries sometimes carry tax forms during tax season.

Harvard Tax Information

Anyone who works for Harvard, even through Work-Study, will receive by mail a W-2 form by the beginning of February for the prior tax year’s earnings. 

To aid in other tax reporting purposes, Harvard will mail a 1098-T Tuition Payments Statement to students who paid tuition.  To claim the credits for tuition and fees paid to Harvard, you need to obtain the 1098-T from the school you attended during the year for the year in which the amounts were paid.  You, or the person who may claim you as a dependent, may be able to take the tuition and fees deduction or claim a Hope and/or Lifetime Learning credit on your federal tax return for qualified tuition and related expenses that were actually paid in a given year.

Resources: Financial Aid: Financial Aid Handbook

Content is loading...
Parent Page