First-Generation Students to Benefit From New Harvard Scholarships

harvard scholarships

Today, Harvard Business School announced a multi-million dollar donation that will benefit MBA students who are the first in their families to go to college.

The $12.5 million donation comes from Jeannie and Jonathan Lavine, both Harvard MBA alumni. The donation from the Lavines is the largest Harvard University scholarships donation ever given to the business school.

And the donation isn’t just generous. It’s personal. Here’s what you need to know about the Lavine’s donation if you have your eyes on an MBA from Harvard.

Harvard scholarships donation helps first-generation students

Jeannie Lavine’s father, Herbert Bachelor, was the first in his family to attend college. Bachelor worked his way through Harvard College and Harvard Business School. He opted to major in finance instead of science, his first love, to ensure he’d be able to earn enough to repay his student loans.

Jonathan Lavine said that though his father-in-law was successful, thoughts of “what if” never left his mind. “He had a successful career in investment banking. But he talks about what could have been, if he had the choice. Going to college should increase your opportunities, not narrow them.”

Because of this, the Lavine’s scholarships donation will prioritize first-generation college students as a way to honor Bachelor’s legacy. Jeannie Lavine said, “We know that intellect is not distributed based on income, and neither should a top education.”

According to the Boston Globe, $2 million of the donation will go to two specific Harvard University scholarships. The remaining funds will match gifts from other donors. The goal is to ensure the business school has a higher amount of scholarships available to students.

Nitin Nohria, the dean of Harvard Business School, hopes the scholarship funds can both increase access to the school and encourage graduates to take lower-paying work in the nonprofit sector. “For many students, being admitted to Harvard Business School becomes a reality only when they know there is financial support available.”

Harvard Business School relies more on tuition payments than federal aid or grants. However, it does offer help through $35 million in annual financial aid to its students — about $37,000 for each student recipient per year.

Scholarship announcement comes on heels of recent criticism

This donation couldn’t come at a better time for Harvard. Last week, CNBC reported on data from the Harvard Crimson highlighting the disproportionately large makeup of legacy students — students whose family members also attended Harvard.

According to the report, one-third of Harvard’s student body is considered to be legacy, giving them three times more likelihood of admittance. This decreases the odds not just for first-generation students, but any student who doesn’t have family ties to the university.

Havard’s very own newspaper criticized this trend in 2015. “The preference Harvard awards the children of alumni offers a leg up to those who, in most cases, already started ahead of the pack.”

And the Crimson didn’t stop there:

Harvard’s legacy preference is, in the simplest terms, wrong. It takes opportunities from those with less and turns them over to those who have more. It lends legitimacy to the entrenched and insidious campus tendency to give affluence an unmistakable social cachet.

The Lavine’s Harvard University scholarships donation won’t solve the unfair advantage legacy applicants receive during the admissions process. But it can help make the dream of attendance a reality for students who might never have applied because of the cost.

How aspiring Harvard students can ease the burden of the costs

If you’re reading this with dreams of attending Harvard, here’s how you could receive a scholarship if you’re accepted.

Start with Harvard’s resource page for scholarships and outside awards. Don’t forget that you can also get Harvard scholarships and grants to its extension school. Finally, if you are the first in your family to go to college, check out’s first in family scholarship listings.

And if you’re a first-generation student looking at schools other than Harvard, there are colleges that offer scholarships just for you.

Ball State University just announced the Mearns/Family Proud Scholarship for students of Muncie Central whose parents didn’t attend college. Companies are also getting in on this. The Coca-Cola Foundation recently announced funding for first-generation students at the College of Coastal Georgia.

The moral of the story: Don’t forego applications to your dream colleges because you’re worried you can’t afford it. Focus on acceptance and then use your research skills to find scholarships and grants to make your dream a reality.

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