Provide a stipend for on-campus FGLI students at Harvard

Provide a stipend for on-campus FGLI students at Harvard

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Harvard Undergraduate Council started this petition to Harvard University

Dear friends,

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed unprecedented financial strain on members of the Harvard Community. While some of these pressures were alleviated by the $5,000 remote room-board allowance offered by Harvard College, we would be remiss to ignore the difficulties imposed on FGLI students faced with the decision between remaining off-campus and receiving the allowance, or returning to campus and forfeiting an allowance vital to their financial security. In meeting the financial challenges faced by many FGLI students, Harvard College’s plans for the fall semester were insufficient. Until a full return to on-campus operations is achieved, we implore the College to grant the remote room-board allowance to all students on financial aid, with students on campus receiving a portion of the allowance proportional to their degree of financial aid.

Overall, Harvard’s plan insufficiently meets the basic needs and financial challenges of FGLI students. One-fifth of all college students are on full-financial aid, some of whom are supporting themselves, their families, and/or experiencing homelessness. We want to highlight that many FGLI students face additional challenges, such as those who face abusive or adverse home conditions and other inaccessible learning environments, all of whom’s best hope for the semester is Harvard’s inadequate “Learning Environment Questionnaire.” These challenging times put many students in circumstances where they have to choose between supporting their families and living in an environment suitable for their learning needs. 


Below are some quotes that illuminate the complexity of this situation: 


“The [COVID-19] allowance was the only reason I stayed at home because since everyone in my household lost their jobs, this was the only source of "income" for us. I believe that Harvard should refund the entire room and board cost, instead of just $5000 allowance.”


“Had I not had to choose between the money and living on campus, I would be on campus right now. I think that Harvard should make funds available so that students can support their families without giving up a stable learning environment.”


“The COVID-19 allowance influenced me to stay at home. As a low-income student, I really needed this money to support my family during the pandemic.”


“Getting this stipend is allowing my family to not need to pay for this year so I am glad to support them like this. Going to campus will be placing a big burden on them.”


“Many students on heavy financial aid, such as myself, chose not to return to campus because our families needed the extra money. For students on 90% financial aid or more, it could be beneficial to offer the $5,000 regardless of whether they return to campus or not, to avoid their families holding them hostage in bad home situations for the money.”


“I stayed home to receive the $5,000 instead of going back to campus (which I had the option of) but this semester has been incredibly difficult and I'm not sure which one to choose next time”


“The 5000 dollars made me question whether it was worth staying on campus if I were to receive an additional 5000 dollars back at home. Having said that, I ended up going to campus because it provided me with the environment to start making friends and have a relatively quiet study space.”

 

Requests

For these reasons, we ask that Harvard continues to provide the $5,000 COVID-19 Remote Room and Board allowance for all students on financial aid who will remain off campus for the Spring 2021 semester. We also urge that for students on financial aid who return to campus (whether by invitation or petition), Harvard provides such students with a similar stipend proportional to their financial aid. For instance, students on full aid will receive the full $5,000 and those on 10% aid will receive $500. For students receiving financial aid who are approved to return to campus for the Spring 2021 semester, the $5,000 Remote Room and Board allowance should not be a factor in such a student's decision on whether or not to stay home. For this reason, Harvard should also provide the same stipend to such students proportional to their financial aid. This allows students to focus on their learning experience while not worrying extensively about home circumstances. 


Closing

The pandemic has highlighted many of the disparities for Harvard FGLI students face. While members of the FGLI community are grateful for Harvard’s financial aid, for which the University's policy is to meet 100% of demonstrated need with grant-based aid, many have pointed to other areas of concern, ranging from lack of centralized communication to struggles with finding housing. Harvard has put FGLI students again in the position where they are hesitant to fill out the on-campus exception form because they believe their case may not be worthy enough.

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