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April 7, 2008 12:02 PM   Subscribe

Pay to play. The children of big-donor Harvard alums are systematically given preference over legacy offspring of lesser means. Additionally David Karen, now a professor at Bryn Mawr, concluded that alumni children at Harvard lose most of their admissions advantage if they apply for financial aid.
posted by The Jesse Helms (95 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Colleges run as businesses, film at 11.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:04 PM on April 7, 2008


I do think there is some advantage in maintaining legacies in institutions, as it helps keep people loyal to the school and brings a sense of history to the institution. Obviously, it can't become a major part of the admissions process or you'd have a school full of unqualified legacies, but I don't think it's "bad" to give a legacy a slight advantage, especially if the parent has been involved with the school in some way. Schools need committed students and families and not just people who come for 4 years and leave.
posted by cell divide at 12:07 PM on April 7, 2008


Wait, it comes as a surprise to anybody that "The children of big-donor Harvard alums are systematically given preference over legacy offspring of lesser means"? Really?
posted by dersins at 12:13 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


:O
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:17 PM on April 7, 2008


I'm outraged.
posted by jsavimbi at 12:17 PM on April 7, 2008


the whole point of legacy: those who go to a very good school will usually end up making big money. The parents then feel an obligation to the school and give large amounts. In return, the schools reward the chilfen with admission, and that explains George W. and his college careers.
posted by Postroad at 12:21 PM on April 7, 2008


I do think there is some advantage in maintaining legacies in institutions...

I couldn't disagree more. It is a class protection system, plain and simple.
posted by R. Mutt at 12:22 PM on April 7, 2008 [11 favorites]


Obviously, it can't become a major part of the admissions process or you'd have a school full of unqualified legacies, Yale.

Ah-hmaw-hmaw-hmaw. How teddibly clevah of me. Ah-hmaw-hmaw-hmaw.
posted by shmegegge at 12:23 PM on April 7, 2008 [24 favorites]


But but but we gotta stop this affirmative action stuff, man! Because, like, this is supposed to be about your test scores and grades and extracurrics, and not about whether your family was slaves/poor/refugees from somewhere way back when and how that makes you a special snowflake now and so you should get a break on getting admitted to really good schools!

/sarcasm

What I really loved about going to an Ivy? Getting suspicious looks from the scions of wealthy families, who were obviously wondering how on earth my brown female self could possibly have been good enough to get into Their School. Fortunately, my work spoke for itself, and fortunately, so did theirs.
posted by rtha at 12:25 PM on April 7, 2008 [11 favorites]


I sure hope he isn't advocating a blind admission system because that would reek of COMMUNISM.
posted by DU at 12:26 PM on April 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


I do think there is some advantage in maintaining legacies in institutions, as it helps keep people loyal to the school and brings a sense of history to the institution.

Well, the problem here is that they are admitting rich legacies, while people who went to Harvard and then don't donate buildings and whatnot find their children no more advantage then average lout off the street.
posted by delmoi at 12:31 PM on April 7, 2008


I couldn't disagree more. It is a class protection system, plain and simple.

I couldn't disagree more. It is a funding protection system.
posted by gyusan at 12:33 PM on April 7, 2008


I couldn't disagree more. It is a class protection system, plain and simple.

Seconded. Legacy should count for absolutely nothing. In fact I'd give preference to first-gen college applicants if they've performed as well WITHOUT the outrageous social- and cultural-capital advantages of well-educated and/or rich parents. And I'm not talking about affirmative action here- far from it. I'm talking about kids like me, first-gen and the youngest kid in my family with four older sibs who all dropped out of high school. I got my high grades and superb SATs on my own and I will be damned if any institution I give money to doesn't honour people like me. Legacy students can go to Directional State U.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 12:33 PM on April 7, 2008 [4 favorites]


delmoi, so what you're admitting is that poor people have no loyalty or sense of history?
posted by jsavimbi at 12:35 PM on April 7, 2008


I do think there is some advantage in maintaining legacies in institutions, as it helps keep people loyal to the school and brings a sense of history to the institution.

I can't take this sort of argument seriously.

My university doesn't give any admissions preference to children of alumni or donors, and it has no lack of a sense of history or continuity (several centuries' more history and continuity than Harvard, for a start).

No self-respecting academic institution should be so anti-intellectual as to offer advantages to children of alumni or donors (not to mention athletic preference, which is equally absurd).
posted by matthewr at 12:37 PM on April 7, 2008


I don't see the problem with legacies being given preferences at private institutions. It's no different than the owner of a privately-owned doughnut shop giving a discount on privately-funded doughnuts to the son of a longtime customer. If I had gone to Harvard, given them a lot of $$, and actively promoted the school via the alumni community, then I'd expect that they'd give something back to me. Then I'd be more likely to send my kids there and hopefully (in their eyes) perpetuate the cycle of alumni support.

That's called good business. My school (George Washington) doesn't understand this idea, treats successful alumni like dirt, and wonders why we won't give it the time of day.

Send your kids to Cal or UVa if you don't like it.
posted by pandanom at 12:39 PM on April 7, 2008


"...if you couldn't parlay a Harvard degree into an income sufficient to pay for your kid's education, Harvard was less likely to make the same mistake twice."

Outstanding
posted by Rafaelloello at 12:40 PM on April 7, 2008


I couldn't disagree more. It is a funding protection system.

Yeah, because Harvard, as the richest university in the world, has real problems protecting its funding.
posted by matthewr at 12:40 PM on April 7, 2008


harvard has no problem protecting its funding because it is so heavily involved in legacy admissions.
posted by shmegegge at 12:46 PM on April 7, 2008


I don't see the problem with legacies being given preferences at private institutions. It's no different than the owner of a privately-owned doughnut shop giving a discount on privately-funded doughnuts to the son of a longtime customer.

So your theoretical donut shop is also not for profit, and receives tax advantages because of that NFP status?
posted by R. Mutt at 12:51 PM on April 7, 2008


I do think there is some advantage in maintaining legacies in institutions, as it helps keep people loyal to the school and brings a sense of history to the institution.
The fact that Harvard's legacy system favors only those legacies who don't need financial aid indicates that it's more about money than about brining "a sense of history to the institution." This study pretty much exposes the talking points as disingenuous.
posted by deanc at 12:52 PM on April 7, 2008


"...if you couldn't parlay a Harvard degree into an income sufficient to pay for your kid's education, Harvard was less likely to make the same mistake twice."

Harvard provides "free rides" to students who come from families with incomes below $60,000.
"In the winter of 2004, under the leadership of President Lawrence H. Summers, Harvard transformed the financial aid landscape with its announcement that families with annual incomes below $40,000 would not be expected to pay for their sons or daughters to go to Harvard. The zero-contribution threshold was raised to $60,000 in 2006, with further reductions in parental contributions for families with incomes up to $80,000. Over the past three years, the number of students in these income ranges has increased by 33 percent, representing a quarter of the entering Class of 2011."*
This past December new Harvard President Drew Faust announced a "Zero to 10 Percent Standard" financial aid program:
"Harvard’s new financial aid policy dramatically reduces the amount families with incomes below $180,000 will be expected to pay. Families with incomes above $120,000 and below $180,000 and with assets typical for these income levels will be asked to pay 10 percent of their incomes. For those with incomes below $120,000, the family contribution percentage will decline steadily from 10 percent, reaching zero for those with incomes at $60,000 and below. For example, a typical family making $120,000 will be asked to pay approximately $12,000 for a child to attend Harvard College, compared with more than $19,000 under existing student aid policies. For a typical family with $180,000 of income, the payment would be approximately $18,000, compared with more than $30,000 today. The new standard reduces the cost to families by one-third to one-half, making the price of a Harvard education for students on financial aid comparable to the cost of in-state tuition and fees at the nation’s leading public universities. The new initiative also establishes a standard that students and their families can easily understand."*
posted by ericb at 12:52 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


But what about the children of big-donor non-alumni? Surely the money their parents donated is just as green as that of alumni? Are children of poorer alumni given preference over the nouveau-riche?
posted by adamrice at 1:00 PM on April 7, 2008


There has been an ongoing debate at Harvard about adopting a "tuition-free model" for all students: Why Can't Harvard Be Free? -- "Harvard is rich. But is it rich enough to make tuition a thing of the past? And even if it could, should it?"
posted by ericb at 1:01 PM on April 7, 2008


Directional State U

Dude! I went to DSU! Go Intercardinals! Fight! Fight! Fight!
posted by ColdChef at 1:03 PM on April 7, 2008 [7 favorites]


No self-respecting academic institution should be so anti-intellectual as to offer advantages to children of alumni or donors (not to mention athletic preference, which is equally absurd).

I think you misunderstand Harvard's marketing strategy of aggrandizing themselves by making everyone else feel like an inadequate lowlife. This is done by accepting those that come from the right bloodline (you know, the ones with loyalty and a sense of history) and rejecting those they deem unsuitable.

This will in turn perpetuate the elitist attitude of those whose entry was based on the merits of their birth with the aid of the usual sycophants like Dean Fitzsimmons, who will continue to carry out his obedient tasks lest he be left out in the cold.

Yes, for window dressing they'll allow some of you swarthy types in, but you'll be expected to round out your tuition by performing the traditional slave labor at student services. Like working cocktail parties and moving furniture around for, you guessed it, wealthy alumni.

Oh, as far as the athletic preference: it's big money. Especially at schools where people decide to attend because they like the football/basketball team. At Harvard not so much, because they pretend to not enjoy plebeian sports unless they're playing a historic, equally moronic rival and then they'll suddenly become overnight football handicappers.

See? They've succeeded. I've busted out four paragraphs of thought on a school that I never went to and at the same time they made me cringe when someone mentioned my alma mater. I, too, feel like I owe Harvard something.
posted by jsavimbi at 1:04 PM on April 7, 2008


I don't like legacy notion but I can understand why it is done and so accept it as a fact of life. On the other hand, those who here dislike it ought to know that state schools etc also play games. Example: you get in to good school if you play oboe (that instrument is needed); you get in if you are decent athlete. You get in if you are from out-of-state cause your family pays much more and the schools often now take in more and more out-of-staters to get money the state legislatures will not give them. and that means you pay taxes for your state system but those living elsewhere get to go to your school and you kid, perhaps, might have to go out of state (costs more) to go to college. And you get in if your parent works at the school, sometimes and at some schools. and on and on. Golly: life is not fair.
posted by Postroad at 1:07 PM on April 7, 2008


I would argue this is the case in every private (and a few public) schools in America, whether college, university or secondary school. Any child of a parent that can dangle a new library or a 6-figure+ chunk to the annual fund can rest easy come admissions time, or, in the case of private high schools, fear not expulsion for almost any infraction, no matter how egregious.

Another valuable (if not exactly academic) lesson I learned attending boarding school on financial aid.
posted by thivaia at 1:10 PM on April 7, 2008


I sure hope he isn't advocating a blind admission system because that would reek of COMMUNISM.

I sure hope he isn't suggesting there is no favoritism underr communism.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:13 PM on April 7, 2008


under


dammit
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:14 PM on April 7, 2008


My university doesn't give any admissions preference to children of alumni or donors, and it has no lack of a sense of history or continuity (several centuries' more history and continuity than Harvard, for a start).

Dunno what university that is, but I hope you're not about to suggest that admissions to Oxford's or Cambridge's various colleges are purely matters of neutral academic merit.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:17 PM on April 7, 2008


Not just Harvard.

The Curse of Nepotism
"These [American universities], which control access to the country's most impressive jobs, consider themselves far above Washington and its grubby spoils system. Yet they continue to operate a system of "legacy preferences" —affirmative action for the children of alumni.

These preferences are surprisingly widespread. In most Ivy League institutions, "legacies" make up between 10% and 15% of every freshman class. At Notre Dame they make up 23%. They are also common in good public universities such as the University of Virginia. Legatees are two to four times more likely to be admitted to the best universities than non-legatees."
posted by ericb at 1:18 PM on April 7, 2008


Legatees are two to four times more likely to be admitted to the best universities than non-legatees.
That's not surprising at all. What is surprising is that this advantage does not exist at Harvard if the applicant applies for financial aid.
posted by deanc at 1:21 PM on April 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Legacy should count for absolutely nothing. In fact I'd give preference to first-gen college applicants if they've performed as well WITHOUT the outrageous social- and cultural-capital advantages of well-educated and/or rich parents.

Statements like this, while founded on an admirable principle, I think are ultimately imprudent. The money that legacy students and parents donate to some of these institutions does not (at least as far as I know) primarily go into the funding pool for some elite Platinum-Level Admissions Club, where the only richest students have access to the best professors, best lab facilities, most intellectually rewarding classes, etc. All the students at the university benefit when an alumni makes a big donation. And sure, maybe too much of the money goes to fund sports teams or statues of the donor, but enough of it seems to go into say, increasing the size of the library, or hiring that top-notch Professor of Mathematics, to make at least some preference for legacies worthwhile.

Of course, in order for that 'worth' to go to a good social cause, it's necessary to also offer generous admission policies to those qualified applicants who would struggle to go to college without financial aid, or those who have the potential to be brilliant, but have not fully lived up to it through their childhood, possibly due to tough socioeconomic situations. So this is why legacy admissions, in small doses, and combined with strong financial aid and affirmative action (either class-based or race-based; the debate between the two can be left to another thread), ultimately seem like an effective tool for creating an optimal intellectual environment, at least to me (or at least until human nature changes to the point that the rich and priveleged will spontaneously give back some wealth and opportunity to those who need it, without asking for something like a college admission in return).
posted by notswedish at 1:21 PM on April 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't see the problem with legacies being given preferences at private institutions. [...]If I had gone to Harvard, given them a lot of $$, and actively promoted the school via the alumni community, then I'd expect that they'd give something back to me.

Except here's the thing. Things.

1) Schools are in the 'business' of providing education. That is, providing education to the best-qualified applicants. Who your sperm and egg donors were doesn't -- shouldn't -- mean jack shit. Your academic performance (and, to a lesser extent, extracurriculars) and your talents should be the only criteria. Why? See my next point..

2) University degrees, especially those from seriously prestigious institutions (Oxford, Cambridge, Sorbonne, Harvard, Yale, Brown, etc) carry with them a certain reputation. When the creme de la creme of these schools are handing out spots to people who qualified by dint of Mum & Dad's names on a building, the reputation of all of the schools is sullied.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:22 PM on April 7, 2008


I'm all for legacy preference - in fact, I think it should be given more weight than it currently is... the pendulum should swing a bit back towards it. Alumni are one of the largest stakeholders in a university, and are certainly its largest constituency. Furthermore, institutional continuity and history is important. While I'm not advocating letting in substandard applicants, if a legacy app meets the fairly high requirements, he or she should really be put at the front of the line.
posted by Spacelegoman at 1:26 PM on April 7, 2008


Good one, ericb. I feel warm knowing that my senior senator, Teddy Kennedy, is out making a name for himself battling nepotism. Thanksgiving in Hyannis/Palm Beach must be awkward.
posted by jsavimbi at 1:28 PM on April 7, 2008


Schools need committed students and families and not just people who come for 4 years and leave.

And yet there are schools where students remain committed for years - decades, even - after they graduate, that have no legacy policy. I wonder how that works, eh?
posted by spaceman_spiff at 1:29 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Shocking!
posted by jeblis at 1:31 PM on April 7, 2008


What we're seeing here is that Harvard--whose $35b endowment is built on the backs of these people--rewards financially-successful alumni by inviting their children (who may not show similar academic gifts) to campus. How is this a problem? Maybe it's just that I'm incapable of romanticising the University as an academic haven, but they're operating a brand whose cachet is based dually on academic and social exclusivity. That these students--whose academic performance might not reflect their ability to be both wealthy and socially notable in the future--are admitted is just part of maintaining that image.

Harvard, and most of the Ivies, walk the line. Of course, the endowment allows plenty of breathing room, but in the end, it's practically imperative that they admit the less academically-inclined children of successful alumni to maintain both their image and cashflow. I might find the fact that less-wealthy alumni don't get the same treatment a little distasteful, but it's hardly shocking or scandalous.
posted by uncleozzy at 1:34 PM on April 7, 2008


Dunno what university that is, but I hope you're not about to suggest that admissions to Oxford's or Cambridge's various colleges are purely matters of neutral academic merit.

Oxbridge admissions aren't perfect, and I wasn't suggesting that they were*.

The point I was making was that a system of legacy preference is evidently not necessary for maintaining a sense of history, community and continuity as cell divide was suggesting.

* Though they're much better than most people think — including nine out of ten teachers.
posted by matthewr at 1:38 PM on April 7, 2008


I might find the fact that less-wealthy alumni don't get the same treatment a little distasteful, but it's hardly shocking or scandalous.

Fair enough, but they justify their legacy preferences using arguments that should offer the same preference to poorer children of alumni as to richer ones. So it is scandalous, because the enterprise of legacy preferences is essentially a dishonest one.

You know, it's one thing to think that you were admitted under a legacy preference to "maintain continuity" with the community and perpetuate an academic culture. It's another thing to think that this is only relevant if you use that degree to make lots of money. The fact that Harvard claims the former but does the latter makes it scandalous.
posted by deanc at 1:41 PM on April 7, 2008


Is this why there are always so many idiots around Harvard Square? Christ, they don't even know how to cross the damned street.

Also, if you're going to stop and chat with your other similarly cardiganned friends, get out of the middle of the fucking sidewalk.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:43 PM on April 7, 2008


The cover photo of 02138 Magazine (to which the first link leads) is of Tommy Lee Jones. I love how he (the son of a teacher and oil field worker) became friends and roomed with Al Gore (the son of a Senator/U.S. Representative) during their senior year.
posted by ericb at 1:48 PM on April 7, 2008


Is this why there are always so many idiots around Harvard Square?

No. Those are all the idiot Rensselaer students and alums!

I keed, I keed.
posted by ericb at 1:51 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Alumni are one of the largest stakeholders in a university, and are certainly its largest constituency.

See, this I don't really understand. My college's trustee and alumni board(s) are currently flinging lawsuits back and forth about how alumni and trustee reps get chosen; in a recent election, some neocon types got elected (a couple of them were classmates, and I do not remember them fondly); their election strategy, as far as I can tell, was to scream and holler about how Different Things Are Now, Different Than They Were When We Were There!

Umm, yeah. Time passes. Things change. The trouble with going to any institution that puts Tradition (sing it with me!) on a place of high importance is that you quickly get this kind of attitude: That's not how it was when we were there! And therefore, it is bad!

I mostly loved going to college where I went to college. I learned a hell of a lot and met some outstanding people. But I don't go there anymore, and I have zero interest in telling the current crop of students that their experience sucks because it's not the same as mine was. Why the hell should I be a stakeholder? If they do good stuff, even (especially) stuff that's different from how it was done when I was there, I'll give them money. But Christ, don't ask me what English courses should be taught, or how many varsity level vs. club sports there should be. I have no frakking idea, because I don't go there anymore, and the people who are currently there (students, faculty, administrators) presumably have a much better idea of what's needed in the long-and short-term than I do.

I mean, there are some alums out there who still think that coeducation (women were admitted beginning in 1972) is the worst thing that ever happened to the college. Why should they be considered as stakeholders?
posted by rtha at 1:52 PM on April 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


Malcolm Gladwell has an excellent article on this.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 1:53 PM on April 7, 2008


they justify their legacy preferences using arguments that should offer the same preference to poorer children of alumni as to richer ones

Fair enough. Do they actually make such claims, though? Maybe I skimmed over it (certainly a possibility), but the only such suggestions I see are in this thread. Like I said, I don't particularly care for the policy, but it makes business sense. You don't get to be as rich as Harvard by being ethical all of the time.
posted by uncleozzy at 1:54 PM on April 7, 2008


(That didn't come quite how I meant it. I didn't mean to imply that either a) unethical pursuit of wealth is just peachy, or that b) wealth in and of itself is somehow tainted.)
posted by uncleozzy at 1:55 PM on April 7, 2008


BTW, if there is nothing wrong with legacy admissions, how come one never hears someone saying ... "I was a legacy admission."
posted by R. Mutt at 2:00 PM on April 7, 2008


From Gladwell's article (in Zed_Lopez's post) ...

The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton by Jerome Karabel.

The Game of Life by James L. Shulman & William G. Bowen.
posted by ericb at 2:09 PM on April 7, 2008


Can we also have an argument about how the scraps of paper "awarded" by these universities are used as hiring criteria by employers who know perfectly well wet-eared graduates are pathetic compared to field trained candidates but provide that coveted CYA defence to the hiring manager?
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:10 PM on April 7, 2008


BTW, if there is nothing wrong with legacy admissions, how come one never hears someone saying ... "I was a legacy admission."

How would one know?
posted by mr_roboto at 2:13 PM on April 7, 2008


For those with incomes below $120,000, the family contribution percentage will decline steadily from 10 percent, reaching zero for those with incomes at $60,000 and below. For example, a typical family making $120,000 will be asked to pay approximately $12,000 for a child to attend Harvard College, compared with more than $19,000 under existing student aid policies.
Fuck ME. It would've cost me less to go to Harvard than it would've to go where I went (Ohio U, picked because I couldn't afford my first first choices: Smith or Reed). And I'm still paying the stupid state school loans off. Harvard is awesome. I'm totally sending my potential children there. They can do whatever they want with the legacies if it makes it affordable for artsy people like my fam to send kids there for free-ish.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 2:32 PM on April 7, 2008


What deanc said.
posted by cmgonzalez at 2:41 PM on April 7, 2008


Okee, I'm from a pseudo-Ivy, that though it's a public college, is often grouped with them due to tradition, athletics, and dynasty. I'm a very strong proponent of meritocracy, and the idea that someone worthy is passed over for a lesser product makes me angry.

But then, after looking at our admissions process, I found out only half of our applicants are competitive based solely other their performance. They weight things like if your family members were part of the service, or if you're athlete, or if you're a woman, or if your part of an underrepresented minority. Or even me, who is from the enlisted community, I didn't compete against the normal run-of-the-mill applicant, which is a good thing too, because I had a 2.5 high school GPA (they did send me to their prep school for a year to get me academically ready). But I bumped off someone smarter than me.

However, not every institution is made merely for academic excellence. Mine is an exception, but I can imagine some private universities prizing the community and pool of alumni just as much as having the smartest ones. We were drawn from across society across groups. There are football and basketball players here that are content get C's, which is good for all the really smart people, I suppose because they are seldom last. (I would like to take this time to point out that our current Brigade Commander is the football all star, who – though he sounds like a meat head – is actually a high-performance aerospace engineer student.) There are those that are mainly interested in the military excellence. There are those that are coming here for an academically sound education. There are those like me that come from the Fleet and help share our experiences. And there are legacy admissions.

John McCain IV is from a long and illustrious line of naval figures that came from this institution. He's not a bad student, but I'm not certain he would have got here normally. There's a new field house almost done that is mainly built with alumni donations, which is nice, because there is only so much money that we can wring from Congress. I bet some of those get a leg up (though there are many ways to get a leg up).

So, I'm torn. On one side I have my desire to see that those who are worthy are accepted, especially from the salt of the earth. However, pragmatism dictates that donations don't grow themselves, and alumni organizations can have incredible sway whether the renovations on the science building get done. Coupled with the fact that the community of alumni should be based not only on academic factors. Yeah, I know that Ivy League sons and daughters don't require any more representation in Ivy League schools, but the same logic (of demographic representation) is used for affirmative action.

So, really, I don't know. It's a lot more thorny than I thought it was when I came here with my blue collar so many years ago.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 2:41 PM on April 7, 2008


A degree from the school of hard knocks is still free. And you get to beat up kids from Harvard for kicks.
posted by three blind mice at 2:44 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


See this is why a degree from M.I.T., CalTech, Georgia Tech, etc. means more.

Georgia Tech is particularly cool because you don't need t be a superstar to get in. You just need some solid indicator of intelligence. The down side is that many many people fail out, which leaves many students with a bad taste, but those that graduate often figure it out. Anyway, this is how all good schools work in more egalitarian European countries.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:48 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hello my name is I went to Harvard.

'Fuck you,' that's my name! You know why? Because you drove a Hyundai to Harvard and I drove an $80,000 BMW- that's my name!

/Baldwin
posted by Hiding From Goro at 3:40 PM on April 7, 2008


It would've cost me less to go to Harvard than it would've to go where I went (Ohio U, picked because I couldn't afford my first first choices: Smith or Reed)

Weirdly, that's how I ended up choosing an Ivy instead of my state school. State gave me no financial aid at all; private college was need-blind, so once I was in, they were committed to making sure I could stay, financially speaking. There were loans, yes, but it was mostly scholarships and grants, and when I came out I had debt, but less than it would've been if I'd gone to State U.

Of course, much of that financial aid was probably available because rich alums gave buckets of money so their kids would get in, even if they weren't so smart.
posted by rtha at 3:41 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Every non-Ivy school thinks it's a pseudo-Ivy. Sheesh.
posted by Hildegarde at 3:46 PM on April 7, 2008


*wasn't a legacy admission*
posted by Hildegarde at 3:46 PM on April 7, 2008


See this is why a degree from M.I.T., CalTech, Georgia Tech, etc. means more.
To be sure. I've always admired their top-tier business and law schools.
posted by joaquim at 3:47 PM on April 7, 2008


"This year, 1,948 high school seniors will receive big envelopes from the [Harvard] admissions office—110 fewer than last year.

The admitted students were selected from a pool of 27,462 applicants, reflecting an 18-percent increase from 22,955 last year.

....A record 11 percent of the admitted students come from African American backgrounds. Over 18.5 percent are Asian American, 9.7 percent are Latino, and 1.3 percent are Native American. Just over half of the admitted students are women.

...In December, Harvard announced sweeping changes to its financial aid program, easing the cost of attendance for middle-income families.

...As of now, over 25 percent of the Class of 2012 is eligible for Harvard’s old financial aid program, which eliminates tuition costs for families earning under $60,000.

The average financial aid package this year is about $40,000, close to 78 percent of the total cost of attendance."*
posted by ericb at 3:48 PM on April 7, 2008


More on those admitted to Harvard College's Class of 2012.

Welcome, Class of 2012!
"...according to the Admissions Office, this class of acceptances is likely to be more socioeconomically and geographically diverse than previous classes—which was the intended effect of eliminating Early Action. For instance, a record 11 percent of students are of African American descent, while 9.7 percent are Latino, 1.3 percent are Native American, and 18.5 percent are Asian-American. This diversity is unquestionably a good thing—especially given that this is increased diversity that does not come at the cost of quality of applicants.

Additionally, Harvard’s recent increase in financial aid to students of low- and middle-income backgrounds has demonstrably made Harvard’s tuition costs more accessible to Harvard families. In the admissions game, the increased perception of financial feasibility is paramount in encouraging students to apply, and the lengthened recruitment period certainly made publicizing this to students quite successful."
posted by ericb at 3:54 PM on April 7, 2008


Yeah, because Harvard, as the richest university in the world, has real problems protecting its funding.

Because if Harvard was a person it would never simply keep eating long after it was full. Never.
posted by GuyZero at 3:57 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


A degree from the school of hard knocks is still free. And you get to beat up kids from Harvard for kicks.

This is a Hahvahd bar, huh? I thought there'd be equations and shit on the walls.*

* - Matt Damon (Harvard | Class 1992) only portrays a character from the "school of hard knocks" in the film.
posted by ericb at 4:00 PM on April 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


With an admission rate of only 7% (from an already self-selected group), Harvard is having a problem finding places for even well-qualified legacy applicants, including those from families that have donated big-time.

The WSJ link in this post doesn't discuss Harvard legacy admissions at all, so the title was a little misleading. Mentioning Harvard did make it more prestigious, though.
posted by lukemeister at 4:07 PM on April 7, 2008


Every non-Ivy school thinks it's a pseudo-Ivy. Sheesh.

Ouch, well, mine actually was involved in the collegiate councils on athletics when they were founded, so it is rather pseudo-Ivy. This isn't a point of pride or not, but we (and West Point even more so) are very plugged into the Ivy League circuit. So, I guess, honorary member of the league. Whatever, as said, I wouldn't consider coming from an Ivy League school strictly better.

(Though the trend of all expense rides to them gives them a leg up on a lot of State Schools.)
posted by Lord Chancellor at 4:26 PM on April 7, 2008


I'm cynical enough about this whole situation to suspect that the additional support for lower income families is in part an attempt to diffuse the growing calls for a complete end to legacy admissions.
posted by R. Mutt at 4:52 PM on April 7, 2008


I don't understand all the outrage. I asked my master about it when I was shining his shoes and he said "Yes, it's true but it's all for the common good."
posted by grounded at 5:47 PM on April 7, 2008


See this is why a degree from M.I.T., CalTech, Georgia Tech, etc. means more.
To be sure. I've always admired their top-tier business and law schools.


Dudse should have cited Chicago. But anyway, the Sloan School is consistently ranked well, and usually ahead of (and at worst among) Tuck, Johnson, and that sorry communist joke of a program at Yale.

Never applied to Sloan
posted by Kwantsar at 6:56 PM on April 7, 2008


Fuck Harvard. I'm a junior at a first-tier liberal arts school in the Midwest and I got here on my merit (and with the help of an extremely generous financial aid package... thanks Kenyon!). If accepting financial aid is a demerit, or coming from a middle-class family is a mark of dishonor, then fuck it. I don't even care if I make it big at this point. I've worked hard and I've got a good education and maybe a career to show for it. You don't need to be a fucking investment banker to be happy, and you don't need to come from money to make it big. Again, fuck Harvard.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 6:57 PM on April 7, 2008


You're a junior in a liberal arts program and you think you've got a career?
posted by Hildegarde at 7:02 PM on April 7, 2008


Hildegarde: I was in the right place at the right time - a good work ethic got me an internship, that internship got me a job, and that job may have landed me a career.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 7:22 PM on April 7, 2008


I mean, knock on wood. Fingers crossed. All that.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 7:23 PM on April 7, 2008


I dropped out of a Seven Sisters school (remember those? when women couldn't go to most of the Ivies?) went to art school instead, and still went to an Ivy for grad school, on full fellowship. Ivies aren't very good value in undergraduate except for the dubious value of the social life.
posted by Peach at 7:41 PM on April 7, 2008


Only one other person has favorited this comment, but there are 11 people who think this policy exists only for class protection? Perhaps I was naïve in thinking that the majority of MeFites would think before reacting instead of the other way around.
posted by oaf at 8:29 PM on April 7, 2008


Metafilter: Perhaps I was naïve in thinking that the majority of MeFites would think

I think the issue at extremely selective places like Harvard is that most of the people who apply are qualified to attend by "objective" measures, so picking students becomes a dark art. In some ways, I think they'd be better off using a lottery to select the incoming class.

As far as Duke courting students just because they have rich parents - now that offends me.
posted by lukemeister at 9:00 PM on April 7, 2008


I share everyone's complete shock. (/snark)

But the elephant in the room, IMHO, is all of the other class barriers out there that prevent the poor from ever entering the professional class. Getting into Harvard is a far cry from being groomed your whole life to look and act like a professional.

Poor children learn how to iron, to cook, to clean their house, and various other labors that are useful, and not just a form of self-betterment.

Rich children are consistently told to better themselves, and have no responsibilities for providing the day-to-day necessities of life.

So while at Harvard, the rich focus on grades, resume padders, and their future career. The poor spend half their time sweating about day-to-day expenses like buying books and clothes, their work study job that pays minimum wage, filling out all the forms for loans and grants, etc., and are accutely aware that they are taking a huge financial risk -- if they fail, they have a shitload of debt to show for it.

It will never be fair, people. Just give up. Statistically speaking, wealth preserves wealth, power preserves power. There is the occasional American dream story, and the occasional rich flunky that manages to blow through his or her entire trust fund and other financial safeguards. But for the most part, you're stuck in the class you're born into.
posted by zekinskia at 11:10 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Colleges don't admit legacies to reward their parents. They do it because they're afraid of pissing them off. Colleges must have long known what this study discovered last year: alums give more each year as their children approach college age, give even more if their kids gets in, but stop almost all donations if their kids is denied. Denying admission to legacies means pissing off the parent alum who, in his 40s or 50s, is at his peak earning power.

A parent who wants to donate $10 million in (tacit) exchange for admission for his academically underqualified son? Who despite his stupidity at least has a Choate education? No matter how badly that kid's presence in the quad hurts that school's academic reputation, the new $10 million physics lab more than makes up for it.

That's all fine with me. Legacies? As the ass-busting son of ass-busting immigrants, I drank their milkshake. I drank it up.
posted by hhc5 at 11:11 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm cynical enough ... to suspect that the additional support for lower income families is ... an attempt to diffuse the growing calls for a complete end to legacy admissions.

I can't find a reference, but I believe that in the past few years several US politicians questioned Harvard's large endowment and suggested that if Harvard did not become more affordable / generous, the pols might encourage a review of the laws governing Harvard's non-profit status.
posted by zippy at 11:24 PM on April 7, 2008


Here we go. Citing the soaring endowments of many American universities and the increasing cost of tuition, Congress has drafted a proposal mandating that universities spend more of the money they make off their endowments
posted by zippy at 11:29 PM on April 7, 2008


Schools are in the 'business' of providing education.

So boozing venture capitalists and building football stadiums are just ways to chew up spare time, I guess.
posted by gimonca at 5:18 AM on April 8, 2008


So while at Harvard, the rich focus on grades, resume padders, and their future career. The poor spend half their time sweating about day-to-day expenses like buying books and clothes, their work study job that pays minimum wage, filling out all the forms for loans and grants, etc., and are accutely aware that they are taking a huge financial risk -- if they fail, they have a shitload of debt to show for it.

Nope. The only thing that poor kids at Harvard are expected to contribute is that work-study job. No tuition. No debt.

Though no doubt they are worried about day to day expenditures and small luxuries while some of their friends decide to pop over to Paris for the weekend.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:32 AM on April 8, 2008


I can't find a reference, but I believe that in the past few years several US politicians questioned Harvard's large endowment and suggested that if Harvard did not become more affordable / generous, the pols might encourage a review of the laws governing Harvard's non-profit status.

Chuck Grassley of Iowa wants to require schools to spend a certain percentage of their endowment on an annual basis. I can't see what prompted this other than spite, or desire to force those ivory-tower leftists to spend their money on something other than indoctrinating our youth.
posted by oaf at 6:35 AM on April 8, 2008


Nope. The only thing that poor kids at Harvard are expected to contribute is that work-study job. No tuition. No debt.

Which is a hella better deal than what I got at my state school, where I did work study, and ran up tuition debt and would've probably had a job job too if I wasn't out on the edge of Appalachia competing against 20,000 other students for the same five jobs selling bagels in town.

The current financial aid system sucks. My grandmother left me a few grand in my name, which pretty much disqualified me for everything even though my parents made less combined than most bloggers make off their frickin' Google ads.

(NOTE TO PARENTS: put the kid's college fund in your name, for heaven's sake, they can take more of it if it's in the kid's name than they can if it's in yours!)

And once the grandma money was gone, the freaky time-delayed nature of FAFSA fun meant that I didn't get jack in aid proper, just loans. So yeah, seeing Harvard making it easy for lower-income people to attend doesn't exactly make me want to hate them.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:04 AM on April 8, 2008


Chuck Grassley of Iowa wants to require schools to spend a certain percentage of their endowment on an annual basis. I can't see what prompted this other than spite

I believe that certain charitable foundations are required to demonstrate that they are regularly dispersing the assets of their endowment on their charitable mission, rather than becoming a self-sustaining, ever-expanding beast. The idea isn't unprecedented.

So while at Harvard, the rich focus on grades, resume padders, and their future career. The poor spend half their time sweating about day-to-day expenses like buying books and clothes, their work study job that pays minimum wage, filling out all the forms for loans and grants, etc.

In my experience, the people who were focused on making money made money. The people who felt that money wasn't important or weren't concerned with maximizing their income didn't end up on the get-wealthy-fast track. The only difference is that the rich were more aware that planning your college career to focus on putting you on the corporate law or investment banking track was the best way of getting money, but the poor or working class kid who focused on going to medical school ended up doing very well, also. But the children of the rich could just as easily be downwardly mobile, because they could afford it without having to worry about how to pay off any educational loans.
posted by deanc at 7:46 AM on April 8, 2008


From the YDN article linked above:
“Parents across the country worry about how they’ll pay for college and their kids being crushed by student loans as college costs continue to skyrocket,” Grassley said in a statement to the News. “At the same time, some universities are sitting on endowments worth billions of dollars. … Why aren’t the schools using that wealth to make college more affordable for families and students?”
As far as I can tell, Grassley is proposing one of two things: forcing schools like Harvard to make tuition free for everybody, which is a handout to the wealthy, or forcing schools like Harvard to pay into some sort of fund that helps people afford to go to schools that don't have huge endowments, which is legalized theft.
posted by oaf at 9:57 AM on April 8, 2008


As far as I can tell, Grassley is proposing one of two things: forcing schools like Harvard to make tuition free for everybody, which is a handout to the wealthy, or forcing schools like Harvard to pay into some sort of fund that helps people afford to go to schools that don't have huge endowments, which is legalized theft.

Grassley is proposing that tax-exempt colleges be subject to the same requirement as tax-exempt private foundations -- to spend 5% of their endowment annually. He proposes it in the context of saying they should use the money to make college more affordable, but I haven't seen that he's proposing legislating how they spend the money, just that they spend it. I've seen nothing suggesting he endorses, let alone favors legislating, either of the possibilities you mention.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:47 AM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, that's all he ever mentions when asked about it. I don't think he'd prefer they build sprawling buildings everywhere.
posted by oaf at 1:53 PM on April 8, 2008


forcing schools like Harvard to pay into some sort of fund that helps people afford to go to schools that don't have huge endowments, which is legalized theft.

Making it different from all taxes ... how? I'm not defending Grassley's scheme (I think it's shortsighted), but the government exists because of what would be outright theft if it was done by anyone else.

If they decide to rewrite the Internal Revenue Code to eliminate Harvard's tax-exempt status, and then impose confiscatory taxes and drive them into the ground, there's not a whole lot to stop them.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:37 PM on April 8, 2008


Off-topic, but related (as the FPP article is from this magazine): Sandow Media Set To Buy Harvard-Oriented Mag 02138 -- "02138, the Harvard-oriented magazine that's made a name for its coverage of the Facebook/ConnectU lawsuit, is on the verge of being sold to Sandow Media, reports WWD."
posted by ericb at 1:22 PM on April 9, 2008


I'm a senior in high school and I'm finally entering the end of the whole college app process. Finally. I can't comment on Harvard or any of the other Ivies, but I think I see a slight trend toward universities offering hugely more aid to lower income students, presumably following Harvard's example. I, for instance, live in a wealthy suburb and come from a middle class family (although I'd qualify for Harvard's free-under-$60,000 program), and so far I've been shocked at the amount of aid I've been offered. I got into Williams, and if I choose to go there can expect to pay less than $4,000 a year, far less than my friends going to the University of Texas. If admitting a few legacy students helps colleges offer that kind of aid to people like me who aren't desperately poor, well, I think I can live with it.
posted by MadamM at 6:53 PM on April 9, 2008


If they decide to rewrite the Internal Revenue Code to eliminate Harvard's tax-exempt status, and then impose confiscatory taxes and drive them into the ground, there's not a whole lot to stop them.

This would be a great way to ensure that America no longer possesses the world's best universities.
posted by oaf at 1:09 PM on April 10, 2008


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