It doesn’t take a Harvard graduate to know Harvard is expensive.
But it takes a Harvard graduate to do something about it. Like most colleges and universities, Harvard is raising its tuition this fall by 5 percent. But they’re not requiring students to pay who don’t have the means to. If your parents have an annual income of $40,000 or under, you can attend Harvard absolutely free. Textbooks not included.
Harvard president and graduate, Lawrence Summers, make the official announcement at the American Council on Education’s annual meeting in February. His speech, “Higher Education and the American Dream”, talked of the disadvantages low-income families face when paying for higher education.
He also spoke of downplaying the Ivy League school’s stereotype as a home to the rich and richer, by letting it be known Harvard is a place where people of all incomes and backgrounds are welcome.
Harvard’s undergraduate tuition for the 2004-2005 school year is $27,448. Living on campus brings the total up to $39,880, including room, board, a health services fee and a student services fee. The previous year’s tuition amount wasn’t much lower. Much of the time, tuition costs more than the actual salaries parents make. With the added expense of personal needs, finances become an overwhelming problem.
Their groundbreaking decision couldn’t come at a better time. Tuition cost is one of the major factors in choosing a college. Many students only apply to schools in their price range, simply because of the financial strain of an expensive, prestigious school.
Recently, Congress withdrew a proposal to penalize colleges for large tuition hikes. It’s unfortunate Summers isn’t in the House as well.
Affluent families have always had the upper edge in terms of education. Paying hundreds of dollars for personalized SAT classes ensures an advantage over a family who can barely afford to pay for the SAT itself. Summers cited that only 7 percent of Harvard undergraduates represent the lowest quarter of American household incomes. Hopefully, this new aid program can change that statistic.
One of the underlying reasons behind Harvard’s generous financial assistance is to increase the small minority population at the school. Additionally, there are plans to reduce the amount of tuition paid by families with incomes between $40,000 and $60,000. A beneficial change such as this should have occurred earlier.
Other schools have been quiet on the issue. In a time where many schools are seeing a decreasing in funds from the government, increasing tuition is the only solution.
Money is Summer’s specialty. Before his Harvard presidency, he was Secretary of the Treasury under Bill Clinton. A Lower Merion native, his family was able to send him to MIT and Harvard, a combination of schools which would have bankrupted the average American family.
Harvard made an exceptional move. Currently, a student from the top income quartile is more than six times as likely as a student from the bottom quartile to graduate with a B.A. within five years of leaving high school. It’s time for a change.
Stephanie Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.