The New York Times reports today (free subscription required) that Harvard University has raised the income ceiling on financial aid eligibility for students from families often considered middle and upper-middle class. Harvard joins several other elite private universities with growing concerns about the ability of even well-off families to afford the costs of sending their children to their institutions.
While Harvard's stated annual tuition runs $45,600 per year, the institution will reduce that cost to families making up to $180,000 a year. Officials at Harvard say these subsidies will reduce the cost of attending the university for many students from by a third to a half. The article quotes Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust saying, "We’ve all been aware of increasing pressures on the middle class. We hear about this in a number of ways -- housing costs, both parents working, the difficulty of amassing any kinds of savings, just the increasing pressures as middle class lives have become more stressed."
One reason for the new policy is the realization by university officials that only wealthy students can afford to pursue unpaid research opportunities or internships with professors or at summer institutes. The increasing costs also reduce the opportunity to study abroad.
Other universities have taken or are considering similar actions. The article cites Amherst, Williams, Stanford, Duke, and several Ivy institutions. According to the article, however, Harvard's actions seem to go further than the others.