Since the drive to sign up seniors for the class endowment fund begins today, it will be advisable for those members of the Class of 1924 who are not interested in seeing the University survive for the use of posterity either to hide themselves in the stacks of Widener or to erect a noble edifice of sophistical arguments with which to dismay the finance committee. The others, who may be anxious to have a safe refuge for their descendants or who may be influenced by some base motives such as pride, or gratitude will thank the gods that for once a Harvard class has adopted an endowment fund policy which permits almost everybody to help out in the twenty-fifth anniversary gift.
For after all, purely as a business matter, every man who graduates owes the University about one thousand dollars, since his instruction costs roughly five hundred dollars a year, of which his tuition pays half. It does not require a Ponzi to perceive that a university is not a paying proposition as far as cash dividends are concerned. It is also obvious that unless some steady and substantial sources of revenue are constantly being tapped to supply the annual deficit, "business as usual" must, sooner or later become impossible.
In the past, contributions from individuals, class endowments and so on have been large enough to keep the wheels turning. But the alleged increases in faculty salaries, in all kinds of expenses, and most of all, in the number of students have made the shortage more serious than ever. It is clear that every student costs the University two hundred dollars, for example, every year each additional student, far from being an asset, is a liability. This fact explains in part, the view, held in some quarters, that the student actually owes something to the University.
While refraining from the sentimental approach to this subject, one might nevertheless point out that a great deacon, and probably will be said on that account. However, a perfectly impersonal, business-like view is all that is really necessary to convince a fair-minded and solvent individual of the justice of the claim. The means adopted for paying the general obligation may in some cases be inconvenient or disliked, but the obligation remains: the method has been devised to suit the greatest number.