spicyyoda17 wrote:1) what are your thoughts on family housing options?
2) w/a family, I'm assuming you have a car; how difficult/expensive is this?
3) have you noticed that most students in your shoes get generous aid? I know a few of us on here with families are concerned about that.
Please edit out the part where I mentioned personal details and asked that people not quote the post.
1. I live outside of Cambridge, because rent can be 30-40% cheaper - I pay about $2400 for a three bedroom apartment with a washer/dryer, playroom, etc. The advantages are that it's bigger and that there are more families around than in the mainly student housing in Cambridge. Also, for me personally, it was helpful to commute to school (20 min. bus ride) and focus only on school during the day, rather than having the option of going back home between classes.The disadvantage basically is that you feel a little disconnected and you're subject to the MBTA.
2. Car is a pain in Cambridge, but if you live in Cambridge, you'll have a resident sticker so it's somewhat less of a pain. I bring a car to school rarely, but I still had to get used to having quarters in the glove compartment that I would not touch for anything but parking at school but I still have to remember to refill the meter within two hours. Or depending on your financial situation, you can just pay for a spot in the new parking palladium under Wasserstein, and then having a car in Cambridge will not be a problem at all.
3. The way that aid works is (I have a topic I posted about this 18 months ago, if you want to dig it up [ETA: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=147656&p=4277729&hilit=+harvard+financial+aid#p4277729
]) is the school gives you a cost of living estimate and then forces you to contribute about $42k (through borrowing), and also looks at your financial situation to see if you should be contributing more. Assuming that you possess $0, the remainder of your cost of living estimate is awarded as a grant. So for the regular student, the COL estimate is about $74k, which means that the person would have to contribute $42k and the school would grant the rest - that's why people say the maximum grant is about $32k.
However, students with children have a higher assessed COL, and for such students, the grant can be higher - up to the full cost of tuition. Each child adds about $15k to the estimate, so someone with two children and $0 would have a COL estimate of about $104k. Subtract the $42k required contribution, and you're left with about $62k. This person would then get free tuition (about $49k), and be eligible for loans for the remaining $13k.
Some things to keep in mind:
1. Parents income is assessed until student is 26, then the assessment is reduced by 25% a year for the following three years.
2. Spouse's income counts, after deductions for child care and work related expenses. So analyze carefully whether your spouse's income will decrease your aid without actually resulting in additional income.
3. Massachusetts has generous entitlement programs, most famously MassHealth. If you're comfortable availing yourself of such programs, by all means do so. Some programs may also affect your grant from Harvard.
4. Assets are counted in determining your expected contribution, but only half because presumably your spouse has a stake in them as well. So if you have, for example, $42k of equity in a house and $30k in a 401k, then half of that - $36k - will be assessed to your expected contribution. You don't need to sell your house or cash out your 401k, because you will be eligible for loans to cover that amount, but those loans will not be eligible for LIPP.