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Financial Aid, Graduate Fellowships Top Fundraising Priorities, Harvard VP Says

University Hall houses multiple administrators' offices.
University Hall houses multiple administrators' offices. By Sanjana S. Ramrajvel
By Cindy H. Zhang, Crimson Staff Writer

In the wake of its record-breaking capital campaign that wrapped up last year, Harvard has focused its fundraising on student financial aid, securing graduate fellowships, and continuing development in Allston, University Vice President for Alumni Affairs and Development Brian K. Lee said in an interview Wednesday.

Student financial aid is currently one of the University’s top fundraising priorities, Lee said. During the $9.6 billion capital campaign that ended in June 2018, Harvard struggled to meet its financial aid goal as quickly as other targets. Financial aid is not fully endowed and an economic downturn could lead to increased need from students and families.

“Across the University, student financial aid, support of our students, is going to remain critical,” Lee said. “There are two things that define, that will sustain excellence at Harvard, and that's continuing to attract the very best students and to attract the very best faculty.”

"These will remain among the highest priorities in any post-campaign environment,” he added.

Though Lee is in charge of Harvard’s fundraising, he is not in charge of determining the University’s fundraising priorities. Rather, the fundraising is directed by goals “articulated by the academic leaders of the institution,” according to Lee.

Another such goal is securing funding for additional graduate fellowships, according to Lee.

“I've actually, in my 33 years of doing this, I really rarely see the level of consensus and unanimity around the fundraising objectives,” Lee said. “There seems to be virtually unanimous consent that securing additional resources for graduate fellowships should be considered among Harvard University's highest priorities going forward post campaign.”

Harvard’s recent expansion into Allston has also necessitated funding focused on that area. The new campus will house the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, an Enterprise Research Campus, and the American Repertory Theater. Identifying potential donors who can help further support the “Allston dream” is a high priority, according to Lee.

“We're continuing to think creatively about how we might approach other opportunities, but I can tell you that identifying those individuals who share a passion for achieving this goal in Allston is a high priority,” Lee said. “We continue to work on articulating a case for support there as well.”

In addition to fundraising, Lee has focused on “sustaining a momentum” following the capital campaign. He assumed his position in November last year, shortly after the campaign concluded.

“Our challenge and our opportunity is to engage our constituents, our alumni, and our donors in helping us to think about how we take this to the next level,” Lee said. “So we spend a lot of time engaging in discussion with our leaders within the institution about the very best strategies to sustain levels of engagement that will lead to continued fundraising success.”

Despite the possibility of an economic downturn and University-wide recession planning, Lee said there is “reason to hope” that Harvard’s fundraising would still “fare reasonably well.”

“From the fundraising perspective, I've had conversations with some of our some of our alumni,” Lee said. “And I have reason to believe that they would stick with Harvard, and they would continue to be generous to Harvard, despite economic downturns.”

—Staff writer Cindy H. Zhang can be reached at

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