Master’s Student Cost of Attendance Budgets Explained

Living expenses in the budget are modest and require the student to carefully plan their expenditures. While the published budget offers a suggested breakdown for housing, food, transportation, and personal expenses, students are free to exercise flexibility within these line items to accommodate personal preferences, as long as total spending does not exceed the total living expense budget.

The standard student budgets are based on typical expenses for a single student. Costs for the student’s spouse/children are not included in the standard student budget; these expenses are accounted for in the need analysis formula when determining the expected student/spouse contribution.

Typical Expenses


Harvard Medical School tuition rates are reset annually and cover courses taken from July 1 through June 30 each year up to the final year of enrollment ending with graduation. Tuition is billed by semester.

Health Service Fee and Insurance Fee

All enrolled students must be enrolled in the health care program provided by the University Health Services (UHS) and must carry hospitalization insurance (either through Harvard's student Blue Cross/Blue Shield Insurance Plan or a comparable outside plan). The UHS fee is charged to all students and cannot be waived. A fee for the Blue Cross/Blue Shield hospitalization plan is automatically charged to all students; however, it may be waived upon request to the Student Insurance Billing Office by presenting proof of equivalent coverage under an alternative insurance plan. The Student Insurance Billing Office is located in the Holyoke Center building on the University’s Harvard Square campus in Cambridge. The telephone number is (617) 495-2008.

Students waiving the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Insurance Plan will have this charge removed from their cost of attendance budget. This removal will result in a reduction in the financial aid award. Students who are billed directly by an outside health insurance provider and/or married students on spousal health insurance plans may submit documentation to the HMS Financial Aid Office to receive a reinstatement for the cost of health insurance coverage to their budget. The amount will be based upon the actual health insurance premium, but will not exceed the Harvard student Blue Cross/Blue Shield rate. Students waiving the Harvard plan due to remaining on a parental health insurance plan are ineligible for a budget increase.

Additional Time to Degree Fee

Students who have completed all of the required coursework to receive their degree, but need an extension to complete their capstone or thesis, will be assessed a $3,000 fee per additional semester.

Books and Supplies

The Master’s budget allotment for books and supplies was developed based on average program costs for course materials. Students also get a separate allowance for software and licenses which is needed as part of the course curriculum.

Housing and Food Allowance

Budgets are based upon the off-campus housing allowance. The off-campus housing allowance assumes shared occupancy of rental units in the surrounding community. Students should consider housing options carefully; additional financial aid is not available to single students whose living arrangements have caused them to have expenses in excess of the total standard student budget.

The food component of the student budget assumes a combination of cafeteria meals, shared grocery expenses, and cooking at home.

Transportation Allowance

The transportation allowance assumes local travel by public transportation and the use of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s transit pass program. The transportation budget also includes an allowance for the cost for one round trip to a student’s permanent residence.

Students in the Global Health Delivery Program may have travel expenses added to the cost of attendance for on-site projects. Year 1 students may have travel costs added for June. Year 2 students may have travel expenses added to the cost of attendance budget for the months of July to January.

Computer Purchases

The cost of purchasing a personal computer and the necessary peripherals and software that accompany it is not part of the standard student budget. However, a student may request that the Financial Aid Office apply an increase to his/her student budget to cover the cost of buying a computer for educational purposes.

For students who are interested in purchasing a computer, the Financial Aid Office will allow a one-time budget increase of up to $2,500. To apply for a budget increase for a computer purchase, a student must purchase the computer and make photocopies of all of the computer specifications and sales receipts. These copies should be submitted to the Financial Aid Office along with a written request for a budget increase. Budget increases are allowed only for a computer purchase made within the academic year for which the budget increase is requested. Students should plan to buy all of desired equipment at one time because it will not be possible to make subsequent budget increases for additional peripheral hardware or software.

The expense of a computer purchase will generally be met first with Direct Unsubsidized loan funds to the extent permitted by federal regulation, and then with funds from either the Direct Graduate PLUS loan program or a supplemental private loan program. For additional information about this process, please contact the Financial Aid Office.

Child-Care Expenses

In the case of a single parent or a student whose spouse works or attends school, the student may petition the Financial Aid Office to include reasonable child-care expenses in the student budget. The student would be required to submit supporting expense documentation such as canceled checks or a letter from the child-care provider. If the spouse is attending school, it is necessary to provide documentation showing the extent to which the child-care expenses are being covered by the spouse’s financial aid award.

Any expenses that cannot be met by student/spouse income are then added to the standard student budget. This increase to the budget is ordinarily met with unsubsidized loans.

Non-Allowable Expenses

Federal regulations stipulate that student budgets may not include the costs of purchasing and maintaining an automobile, expenses related to the support of the student’s parents or siblings, or funds for the repayment of a loan taken in a previous year. Relocation expenses for moving to Boston in the first year or for moving away from Boston at the end of the academic program are also not allowable expenses for the purpose of establishing eligibility for financial aid, nor is the cost of furnishing an apartment.

Students may petition the Financial Aid Office to adjust the student budget to accommodate reasonable, yet extraordinary, expenses such as uninsured medical/dental costs. If the petition is approved, these expenses ordinarily would be funded with unsubsidized loans.