By Saurabh Agarwal
We don’t often realize the effect that our individual actions can have on future generations. It is said that “with great power comes great responsibility.”
Studying at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) is one such power and privilege. As students and future alumni of HKS, we owe responsible behavior not only to society at large but also to future HKS students. A part of this responsibility involves honoring our commitments as alumni.
DID YOU KNOW? 16 percent of international students at HKS default on their education loans.
An important commitment some of us make as students at HKS is that of repaying student loans from the Harvard University Employee Credit Union (HUECU) after graduation. HKS has a tie-up with HUECU to issue loans to international students without a co-signer. Three years ago, the loan limit was $10,000 per year which was later increased and is currently at $15,000 per year.
Considering that the financial burden of being an international student at HKS amounts to $70,000 per year, the HUECU student loan is an important support/aid for international students who would otherwise be unable to afford an education at HKS. This is especially relevant during this period of economic slowdown when all scholarships have dried up.
THE PROBLEM Based on a rough estimate from the Student Financial Services at HKS, around 16 percent of international students have defaulted on their student loan in the past few years. This is a high percentage considering less than one percent of American students default on their loans. Due to such high default rates, the HKS administration is required to pay money to HUECU on behalf of the defaulting students. This money could have been utilized by the administration to provide more loan/scholarship opportunities to current students. This is also the reason why the loan has been capped at $15,000 since the HKS administration cannot afford to take the risk of increasing this loan limit. A handful of other graduate schools at Harvard provide loans for students to cover the entire cost of attendance. Harvard School of Public Health has capped the HUECU student education loan amount limit for its graduate students at five times that at HKS ($75,000 per year).
WHAT CAN WE DO? There are two main actions that we should undertake. First, take a personal pledge to honor our commitments and repay our student education loan in a timely manner. Second, share this article with HKS Alumni and ask them to share it with their classmates to ensure that there are no more defaults. This is our duty as responsible HKS students.