Harvard Does Something Amazing
March 10, 2004 12:54 PM   Subscribe

Harvard Eliminates Tuition for Some. Harvard will no longer be charging tuition for students whose families make less than $40,000 a year. I'm speechless.
posted by o2b (34 comments total)
 
I think a sliding scale would make more sense and seem far fairer (more fair?).
posted by xmutex at 12:55 PM on March 10, 2004


There is a bit of a sliding scale -- according to the article, "Harvard also announced that students whose parents earn from $40,000 to $60,000 will receive a substantial increase in aid."
posted by o2b at 12:56 PM on March 10, 2004


Let's hope we don't see a subsequent dip in admissions for people whose families make less than $40000 a year.
posted by jon_kill at 12:57 PM on March 10, 2004


The article also says, "Harvard also plans to more aggressively recruit low-income students, making sure they know they can afford to attend college."
posted by o2b at 12:59 PM on March 10, 2004


What will happen to the future of our country if poor people start taking over our elitist educational system and try to better themselves?

I, for one, am shuddering to think.
posted by xmutex at 1:03 PM on March 10, 2004


"Mom, you make what, about $35,000? Dad, you're around the same? I've been thinking: aren't you two completely sick of each other?"
posted by yerfatma at 1:04 PM on March 10, 2004


yerfatmama - priceless!
posted by soyjoy at 1:06 PM on March 10, 2004


This is sweet. But Harvard has the funds to do this: $19.3 billion to be exact. No other school comes within 60% of this number. Those expecting a similar charitable action from the rest of the Ivy League may be sorely disappointed. At my alma mater, our relative poverty (last in the Ivies and 25th overall) is a huge sore spot for both the admissions folks and student activists who were dismayed that Brown failed to go need-blind until just last year (and took a financial hit to do so.)
posted by PrinceValium at 1:06 PM on March 10, 2004


This is a brilliant move. As PrinceValium points out Harvard can easily afford it. It generates good PR and helps Harvard in its competition for top students against the other top schools.

Its also not exactly a sea change. A friend of mine I went to Harvard with had a family income of about $20K. His aid package was so huge that I think that Harvard took a total of maybe 6-8K from him and his family during his entire four years there.
posted by vacapinta at 1:13 PM on March 10, 2004


I think a sliding scale would make more sense and seem far fairer (more fair?).

You wouldn't know it from reading the article, but there already was a sliding scale for financial aid, and there will continue to be. This just eliminates the lowest step of the scale completely, and makes the next-lowest somewhat more mild.
posted by tingley at 1:15 PM on March 10, 2004


This is wonderful--if other schools would imitate them, we'd be set. (actually, we'd be better off without all the budget cuts that state and community colleges are going thru--can Harvard donate some of that billions to them?)
posted by amberglow at 1:16 PM on March 10, 2004


See also: Princeton [via boingboing]
posted by ook at 1:24 PM on March 10, 2004


Of course, those students whose parents can afford to pay (but choose not to) are screwed once more.
posted by trharlan at 1:24 PM on March 10, 2004


not necessarily trharlan. at cornell, if you parents refuse to pay (and they have the legal right to do that), the financial aid package changes completely.

this is really good news and i hope the other ivy's start thinking about this.
posted by Stynxno at 1:35 PM on March 10, 2004


That is just incredible. I'm all for anything that keeps lower income students in school.

A friend of mine I went to Harvard with had a family income of about $20K. His aid package was so huge that I think that Harvard took a total of maybe 6-8K from him and his family during his entire four years there.

6-8K is a lot of money when your family only makes $20K a year. I imagine his parents ended up in major debt to get him through school at that income.

I'm really behind this because I had to leave school due to finances and I was at a community college. (tuition, books, fees, and transportation costs, as we leave an hour from the college.) Now, I'm almost 29 years old with only a certification in CIS. My husband is in college and once he has graduated I'm going back.
posted by SuzySmith at 1:37 PM on March 10, 2004


And why is that, trharlan? A student whose parents can afford but are shortsighted enough to deprive their child of a Harvard education and its subsequent employment advantages is probably very deserving of their Associate of Hospitality Management from Fairfax County Community College, or whatever slag heap s/he's consigned to by parental disregard... Harvard's program is for kids who are smart enough and motivated enough to get in, kids whose parents would help them, if only they were able to, not the ones whose cheapskate parents abandon them after the (free) public education system times out after the 12th grade.
posted by JollyWanker at 1:39 PM on March 10, 2004


If they are good enough to get into Harvard they are good enough to get into one of the service academies. Just an option. Also I think I have heard that Cooper Union is free.

trharlan, I honestly don't understand parents who won't help their kids. My husband was one of those kids...long story, but his dad is someone I prefer not to be around.
posted by konolia at 1:40 PM on March 10, 2004


konolia-- My folks could probably have done more, but they didn't. They believed that I would appreciate college more if had some skin in the game. I think they are absolutely fabulous people and I love them dearly. So now I have some low-interest debt that I could deduct, were my income low enough. Not a big deal to me. No grudges whatsoever.

JollyWanker-- I've reread your post three or four times and I confess that I don't understand what you're saying.
posted by trharlan at 1:47 PM on March 10, 2004


While schools like Harvard and Yale list their full tuition (plus room and board) at close to $40,000 a year, the reality is that few students actually pay that much. Harvard claims that fully 70% of its students receive some sort of financial aid. What's going on here is price discrimination: effectively charging different people different prices based on how much they can pay. Harvard has taken a logical step here; whereas before it heavily subsidized poorer students with financial aid, now it garners better publicity by simply dropping the list price of its education to zero for those students.
posted by profwhat at 1:48 PM on March 10, 2004


The University of Texas at Austin pulled kind of a similiar measure when the state senate gave all of the UT schools free reign over their tuition and fees. They graded the increase based on fam. income, with (I believe) people whose families make less than $40k seeing no increase at all.
posted by Ufez Jones at 1:57 PM on March 10, 2004


if only they were able to, not the ones whose cheapskate parents abandon them after the (free) public education system times out after the 12th grade.

I don't understand this assumption that it's a parent's responsibility to put their kid through college. I wouldn't have taken help from my parents even if they could have afforded it, and it really offended me that I had to send in copies of their tax returns anyway.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:10 PM on March 10, 2004


Vacapinta, I can testify to Harvard's generosity to families that are not well-off. I and a lot of my friends would have had no chance to attend the school without a massive degree of help from the financial aid department. And there was a lot of attention paid to making sure we didn't have a substandard experience at the school compared to our better-off confreres, too. For example, my senior year, the school pioneered a program to give lower-income students a certain number of free tickets for every event (performance, lecture, what have you) that was ticketed through the Harvard Box Office.

And profwhat: the price for every student is the same. What differs is how much help each person gets in paying for it. Harvard's admission policy is need-blind. They let the students in, then help them out if they can't pay.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 2:12 PM on March 10, 2004


the price for every student is the same. What differs is how much help each person gets in paying for it.

A distinction without a difference.
posted by trharlan at 2:17 PM on March 10, 2004


If they are good enough to get into Harvard they are good enough to get into one of the service academies. Just an option.

Want to know more?

A distinction without a difference.

I'm sure that used car salesmen love you, then.
posted by riviera at 3:37 PM on March 10, 2004


The reality is that in olden times, i.e. the 50s, nearly everyone who went to an Ivy League or equivalent-quality school was rich. And Establishment, in one way or another. These days, some families who go Ivy League are incredibly privleged, and some are incredibly not. I think this change is commensurate with the societal changes going on around the country, and I say: Yay. Good for Harvard for putting their mega-endowment into making the College a better place for undergrads from all backgrounds. I only hope other private schools someday become so wealthy that, too, can afford to do this.
posted by jengod at 3:40 PM on March 10, 2004


JollyWanker, by that logic, governments should just stand by while parents let their kids starve to death. "Hey, their parents don't care, why should we?"

/bitter self-supported college student
posted by mrbula at 3:40 PM on March 10, 2004


A student whose parents can afford but are shortsighted enough to deprive their child

Other than prodigies, anyone old enough to get into Harvard isn't a child.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 3:51 PM on March 10, 2004


Most expensive private schools have lost a lot of good students in the past ten 10+ years. For someone who does a science or engineering degree they simply do not represent value for money for undergrad degrees. In science/engineering you can usually predict fairly accurately what you will make when you graduate and it doesn't really vary b/c of the college you attended, skills are more important. There is enough demand for technical skills at the moment that you don't need an Ivy League on your resume to get interviews. At least not IMHO.

This is probably a good way to get really competitive again. If Harvard is cheaper than the UC system, then sure I'll go! Of course if you don't have those famous professors teaching the undergraduate classes, then it's not such a good deal anyway.
posted by maggie at 4:05 PM on March 10, 2004


For someone who does a science or engineering degree they simply do not represent value for money for undergrad degrees. In science/engineering you can usually predict fairly accurately what you will make when you graduate and it doesn't really vary b/c of the college you attended, skills are more important. There is enough demand for technical skills at the moment that you don't need an Ivy League on your resume to get interviews. At least not IMHO.


And if you're going into science or engineering and have good enough qualifications for the Ivy League, why not go to Cal Tech/MIT/Stanford/Berkeley/CM/Michigan/Illinois/etc. instead and attend a better science/engineering program?
posted by gyc at 5:15 PM on March 10, 2004


The other important thing is that these students will be less likely to consider which degree stream to enter based on how long it will take to pay back their loans with the resulting career. This could lead to some interest being drawn away from the very busy science/engineering/business departments and into the arts/humanities
posted by nprigoda at 6:22 PM on March 10, 2004


first off i think your ONLY going to see schools with endowments the size of small nations GDP pull this type of deal (maybe MIT and a few others). That said, this is an incredibly good thing and makes me all the more appreciative to live in america (value of intelligence and ability over dowry).
When i was applying to college i knew that my acceptance letter was my financial aid letter, and while i was in school there wasn't a day i didn't realize that i had to work my ass off because i was getting a damn big grant and should earn it. However, i also noticed that a good portion of the hardest workers in school also happend to be those with the most grants (not necessarily true, but a broad generalization).
As for why NOT to go to a good engineering school undergrad i can give only one good reason: balance. Most good engineering schools lack diversity in thier liberal arts programs or are soo friggen big that your taught by TA's the whole time. Honestly though, nobody goes to harvard for engineering when MIT is down the street (or you can go north 3 miles to my alma if your a bit more of a slacker). Education is what you make of it, and by allowing these students to make the best of it they're going to get very appreciative graduates, which just leads to more future donations.
posted by NGnerd at 8:29 PM on March 10, 2004


why not go to Cal Tech/MIT/Stanford/Berkeley/CM/Michigan/Illinois/etc. instead and attend a better science/engineering program?

Ahem. Harvard's Math department has been ranked #1 for a while now.

Interestingly enough, MIT's English department is usually top 3.

Anyway, this whole thing reaks of Big Friggin' Deal. If Harvard really wanted to change the "system", they'd hire about a thousand more profs, buy a few more buildings and open enrollment to another 50,000 students. Let everyone have a chance for some Crimson on their walls.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:58 AM on March 11, 2004


Ahem. Harvard's Math department has been ranked #1 for a while now.

haha. good god.
posted by Satapher at 3:31 AM on March 11, 2004


And if you're going into science or engineering and have good enough qualifications for the Ivy League, why not go to Cal Tech/MIT/Stanford/Berkeley/CM/Michigan/Illinois/etc

UMich costs $40+ / year if you're out of state. Stanford and MIT ain't cheap either. Stanford has a neat policy of only giving As and Bs to undergrads which has caused it to really drop in stature for science geeks like me. Places like Iowa State/ UNH/ UCDavis/ Texas Tech are producing much better qualified graduates in my field than any big name school (with the exception of Duke). I'm in research, not engineering so I can't speak for that.

Instate schools are a much better deal for 99% of students.
posted by maggie at 5:10 AM on March 11, 2004


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