The US Department of Education offers several aid programs for graduate students who are US citizens or permanent residents. Details about these programs are listed below and on the US Department of Education Federal Student Aid website.

Students interested in federal student aid should do the following:

  • Contact the GSAS Office of Admissions and Financial Aid to request a GSAS Federal Aid Application Packet. This packet contains information that will help guide the student through the application process and assist GSAS in promptly determining federal aid eligibility.
  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The GSAS FAFSA School Code is E00470.
  • First-time borrowers to any federal loan program will be required to complete a Master Promissory Note and participate in Loan Entrance Counseling prior to the first disbursement of their loans.

Your eligibility for federal student aid will be determined by a number of factors including federal yearly loan limits, federal aggregate loan limits, your cost of attendance, the financial aid you are receiving from the university, your expected family contribution, and any other outside resources you are receiving.

Given the multiple parties involved in awarding federal aid, it is best to begin the process well in advance of when the funds will be needed. This is especially important for students in traveling scholar status, since it is more challenging to complete the application process from overseas.

Students should be aware that providing false or misleading information when applying for federal student aid can result in either a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment for up to five years, or both. Please be aware that if a student is suspected to have misreported information or altered documentation to fraudulently obtain federal funds, the University is legally obligated to report the student to the Office of Inspector General at the US Department of Education.

William D. Ford Federal Direct Student Loan Program: Direct Unsubsidized Loan

  • Eligible students may borrow up $20,500 per year, with a lifetime borrowing limit of $138,500 (including any Federal Direct Loans for both undergraduate and graduate education)
  • Fixed interest rate (6.00% for loans made in 2017–2018)
  • Interest accrual begins immediately and continues to accrue until the loan is repaid; borrowers may elect to make interest payments while enrolled or have the accruing interest added to the outstanding loan balance.
  • A loan origination fee will be deducted from the face value of the loan (currently 1.069%).
  • The loan is disbursed in two equal parts, typically once per semester.
  • Repayment begins six months after graduation or dropping below half-time enrollment.
  • See the Federal Student Aid website for more details.

William D. Ford Federal Direct Student Loan Program: Direct Grad Plus Loan

  • The annual limit is determined by the student’s cost of attendance, with no aggregate limits.
  • Fixed interest rate (7.00% for loans made in 2017–2018)
  • *Interest accrual begins immediately and continues to accrue until the loan is repaid; borrowers may elect to make interest payments while enrolled or have the accruing interest added to the outstanding loan balance.
  • A loan origination fee will be deducted from the face value of the loan (currently 4.276%).
  • The loan is disbursed in two equal parts, typically once per semester.
  • Repayment begins six months after graduation or dropping below half-time enrollment.
  • Applicants must pass a credit check in order to borrow under the Grad PLUS program.
  • See the Federal Student Aid website for more details.

Federal Work-Study

Federal Work-Study is an employment program that subsidizes the wages of students working in nonprofit settings. The program enables employers to fill part-time positions at reduced cost, thereby increasing employment prospects for federal work-study participants. Students apply for federal work-study via the GSAS Office of Admissions and Financial Aid; once eligibility has been established, students may begin the search for an appropriate job.

Typical work-study jobs include on-campus employment such as research assistant, laboratory assistant, library aide, and clerical assistant; students may want to explore the possibility of working in their academic departments. Off-campus employment is ordinarily with public or private nonprofit organizations whose work performance requirements are not political or sectarian in nature. Typical work settings include hospitals, public schools, youth centers, day care centers, community development centers, consumer affairs agencies, and city and state agencies. Under certain conditions off-campus employment can be arranged in business and industry at a reduced wage subsidy.

Upon review of the federal student aid application materials listed above, work-study eligible students are given a work-study earnings ceiling; students who exceed this earnings cap may have to relinquish other funding due to federal regulations concerning over-awards.

Once students have been notified of their Federal Work-Study eligibility, they are free to begin job searches. The Harvard University Student Employment Office maintains a database of open positions and may be a valuable resource. To complete the awarding process, students who have secured work-study jobs complete either an On-Campus Referral Form, or an Off-Campus Referral Form.

Important Policies and Procedures Concerning Federal Student Aid

FREE APPLICATION FOR FEDERAL STUDENT AID

US citizens and permanent residents applying for federal student aid are required to file the US Department of Education’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). As part of the FAFSA filing process, students need to authorize that their information be forwarded to the GSAS Office of Admissions and Financial Aid. Please note that there are multiple school options listed for Harvard University. GSAS students must select E00470 – “Harvard Univ Grad S of Arts & Scien”.

Students can streamline the FAFSA filing process by filing their tax returns with the IRS at least two weeks prior to filling out the FAFSA.

As part of the FAFSA filing process, the US Department of Education will match student information to the National Student Loan Data System to verify that the applicant is in good standing with respect to any prior federal aid received.

SATISFACTORY PROGRESS

Government regulations require that students be registered and making satisfactory academic progress to be eligible for federal student aid (also referred to as federal “Title IV” programs). GSAS satisfactory progress guidelines may be obtained from each academic department and are published in the GSAS Student Handbook. Please note that students in Grace or Unsatisfactory progress are not eligible for Federal Title IV aid.

Satisfactory academic progress standards for federal student aid is based on a combination of both qualitative academic progress determined by the department and quantitative time to degree standards. Because GSAS policy states that students in PhD programs ordinarily will not be permitted to register beyond their tenth year, students registered past the G10 year are not eligible for federal student aid.

US DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION REFUND POLICY FOR FEDERAL LOAN PROGRAMS

Federal regulations require that students receiving federal loan assistance toward tuition, fees, and living expenses must refund aid received to the Department of Education in the event that the student fails to register for the period of enrollment for which they were charged and aid was awarded or; the student withdraws, drops out, takes an unapproved leave of absence, fails to return from an approved leave of absence, is expelled, or otherwise fails to complete the period of enrollment for which they were charged and aid was awarded.

This refund must be allocated in the following order:

  1. Federal Direct Graduate Plus Loan
  2. Ford Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan

UNIVERSITY TUITION REFUND POLICY FOR STUDENTS WHO WITHDRAW

Registered students who formally withdraw from GSAS and are not subject to the Active File Fee are charged tuition according to the following schedule:

Fall 2016 – Students withdrawing on or before 
October 1: ¼ tuition for the term
November 8: ½ tuition for the term
December 16: ¾ tuition for the term
After December 16: Full Tuition

Spring 2017 – Students withdrawing on or before
February 23: ¼ tuition for the term
March 25: ½ tuition for the term
April 25: ¾ tuition for the term
After April 25: Full Tuition

Please note that the Active File Fee is not prorated.

OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN

The US Department of Education Office of Federal Student Aid has an Ombudsman available to work with student loan borrowers to informally resolve loan disputes and problems involving Direct Loans, Federal Family Education Loans, Guaranteed Student Loans, SLS Loans, and Perkins Loans. For additional information visit the federal student aid at or call 877-557-2575.

Students are encouraged to contact their financial aid officers with questions about federal student aid or any of these related policies.