Harvard’s Undergraduate Council reduced the maximum allocation per student under its Career Opportunity Fund to $200 due to higher demand from students than anticipated, according to a UC Finance Committee statement.
Finance Committee Chair Daniella M. Berrospi ’24 created the Career Opportunity Fund to provide first-generation, low-income students with the resources to pay for the expenses of internships — primarily clothing — and other external projects.
The program was absorbed into the funding for Wintersession — the period marking the last 10 days of winter break — to consolidate applications for the different program offerings and simplify the grant distribution process.
According to Eliot House Representative Rukmini “Mini” Ganesh ’22, the UC increased the Wintersession funding from $10,000 to $30,000 to better satisfy student demand. Of this $30,000, roughly half went towards the Career Opportunity Fund.
Still, student demand outsized the UC’s Wintersession budget.
“It was a total of over $230,000 requested compared to a total of $30,000 last year,” Ganesh said. “We couldn’t get any extra money this past semester, but we are looking to get more money for the upcoming semester for these programs,” Ganesh said.
More than 400 students applied to receive a grant from the Career Opportunity Fund, she added.
Though unable to meet the full funding demand, the UC still distributed the allotted $30,000 to interested undergraduates through a random lottery system that granted priority to students on full financial aid.
“It really came down to a weird trade-off between how many students can we fund meaningfully versus for how many students this was a meaningful amount of money,” Ganesh said.
Ganesh and Berrospi said they attribute the rise in demand to better publicizing of Wintersession funding and the pandemic encouraging students to want to seek out internship opportunities.
UC Treasurer Edwin “Eddie” B. Jin ’24 said he will advocate for those who were not able to receive a grant this funding cycle.
“I'm going to try to pursue legislation with other people to approve more funds for the remainder of career opportunity grants, so it's not like we're totally abandoning those people who we didn't roll down to in the first semester,” Jin said.
Ganesh added that the UC will work with other groups in the future to keep up with student demand.
“We’re looking to partner with other groups moving forward. That way we can make sure everyone who needs help gets help,” Ganesh said.
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