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2. The fellowships will be paid directly through the fellowship office of the university in which the successful candidate is enrolled for study in the United States. One half will be paid in September and one half the following February. NO UNIVERSITY OVERHEAD MAY BE APPLIED TO THE FELLOWSHIP AWARD. UNIVERSITY FINANCIAL SUPPORT IS VIEWED AS SEPARATE FROM DE KARMAN FELLOWSHIP SUPPORT. THE DE KARMAN FELLOWSHIP IS FOR MERIT, BASED ON A NATIONAL COMPETITION. THEREFORE, IT IS HOPED THAT ONGOING UNIVERSITY SUPPORT COMMITMENTS ARE MAINTAINED WHILE A DE KARMAN FELLOWSHIP IS HELD.
According to the Foundation's website, "the fellowship is not a reward for past accomplishment, but rather an investment in a person's originality, insight, and potential". The current prize is $625,000 paid over five years in quarterly installments. This figure was increased from $500,000 in 2013 with the release of a review  of the MacArthur Fellows Program. Since 1981, 942 people have been named MacArthur Fellows,  ranging in age from 18 to 82.  The award has been called "one of the most significant awards that is truly 'no strings attached'".