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With $53 Billion Endowment, Harvard Encourages Students to Apply for Food Stamps


By: Adam Andrzejewski

Even $53 billion isn’t enough for Harvard University to pay for its students’ food. The university with the world’s largest endowment is encouraging its graduate students to apply for food stamps, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Harvard’s Health Services office recently circulated a flier to graduate students, encouraging them to participate in the SNAP program, Yahoo Finance reported. “Fuel your body & stock your pantry. Did you know that grad students may qualify for assistance paying for food & groceries?” the flyer read.

With a $53 billion endowment, Harvard pays its graduate students — who work for the university doing research and teaching classes, while getting their degree — $40,000. That’s often not enough to cover housing, food and other expenses, especially living in Cambridge, Mass, where the cost of living is 73% higher than the national average.

The Harvard Graduate Students Union argued the university should pay its approximately 4,000 graduate students more, so they don’t need SNAP. Average SNAP benefits are $121 per month, per person. If every one of the 4,000 graduate students received benefits, it would cost $484,000.

They have been on strike twice in recent years, in part due to the low pay from the university. A contract signed in 2020 promised graduate students a 2.8% pay raise. Surely a university with tens of billions of dollars can afford to pay its student workers more, instead of relying on the taxpayer-funded social safety net to subsidize its greed.

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