Endowment at Work

Made up of more than 13,000 individual funds invested as a single entity, the endowment’s returns enable leading financial aid programs, groundbreaking discoveries in scientific research, and hundreds of professorships across a wide range of academic fields. Approximately 80 percent of Harvard's endowed funds are restricted by the donor to a specific school or purpose, but unrestricted funds ensure that nearly every aspect of University operations receives support.


Harvard University has directed the Harvard Management Company (HMC) to set itself on a path to reach “net-zero” emissions in its portfolio by 2050, matching the timeline set by the Paris Agreement, an international compact to stem the rapid rise in global temperature. The pledge to go net-zero is a first among U.S. endowments.

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The Arnold Arboretum celebrated 35 years of offering free programs for elementary school students called Field Study Experiences, opening the gates of nature and science to thousands of Boston Public School (BPS) children each year. The partnership with BPS has grown over the years to include expanded opportunities for learning at the Arboretum, free bus transportation for students and teachers, as well as specialized training for volunteers tailored to the needs of young learners.

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Based on current projections, more than half of the Class of 2023 will receive need-based grants, allowing families to pay an average of only $12,000 annually.

Since launching the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative in 2005, Harvard has awarded more than $2 billion in grant aid to undergraduates, and its undergraduate financial aid award budget has increased by more than 138 percent, from $80 million in 2005 to more than $191 million in 2018.

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Scientists at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering with expertise in fields ranging from molecular cell biology and immunology to materials science, chemical engineering, mechanobiology, and DNA origami are at the forefront of several novel approaches for combating cancer. Their research, united by the common principle of emulating nature, has the potential to make existing treatments better, create new ones, and even prevent cancer from starting in the first place.

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The Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies is a world leader in fine arts conservation, research, and training. The center’s laboratories are where conservation, conservation science, and curatorial practice intersect, coming together to enrich the understanding of and care for the approximately 250,000 objects in the Harvard Art Museums’ collections.

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The freshman seminar, “Harvard’s Greatest Hits,” gets students to explore some of Houghton Library’s rarest volumes.

The idea was simple: Get about a dozen first-year students in a room and have them study some of the rarest and oldest volumes at Houghton Library, Harvard’s vast repository of art, culture, history, and more.

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Little could a wealthy London merchant know that his gift to Harvard in 1721 would transform how students are taught in today’s universities, and lead to a fundamental shift in the School’s founding ethos.

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Want to learn more about how Harvard's endowment is managed for current and future generations? Hear from faculty and administrators as they dive into the details of how the funds are used and maintained in accordance with responsible stewardship and budgetary practices.

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