The Tuition Situation
The squeeze is on. The price of a Harvard education, like the price of a Columbia education, or a Yale, or a Dartmouth, or a Princeton education, is jumping, one large hop at a time, to the point where it will be within the range of none but the proverbial rich man's son. This is a tendency that makes nobody happy. It is a trend that provides no more pleasure for the administration, whose policy has been to democratize admissions and to broaden the student body of Harvard College, than it does for those non-scholarship students who cannot afford more than they are now paying, or than it does for those students in high-schools throughout the country who will now be forced to abandon the idea of going to Harvard. Absolute necessity is the only thing that could force a rise in tuition in the face of this sentiment; and within the framework of the University's basic financial policies, that absolute necessity exists.
The essential framework within which the tuition rise must be considered is this: Harvard is run as a $200 million business, not as a humanitarian institution. It is a business policy of the University, for better or for worse, that each of the divisions, such as the Law School or the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, must operate within the limits of its own resources. The University itself, apart from any of the divisions, has an annual income of about $2 million, some of which is ordinarily used to absorb deficits shown in various relatively minor divisions, such as the library and veterans housing, at the end of a year. But the University considers it bad business to commit its money, and when the estimated costs for the year of such a major division as the Faculty of Arts and Sciences run more than $600,000 over the estimated income, which is the ease in 1948-49, that Faculty must do something to balance its own budget.
Three things can be done: costs can be reduced, the endowment can be increased to provide more income, and student income can be increased. The first two have been attempted on almost every level. Such things as museum staff's and departmental budgets have been cut to the marrow, sometimes with unfortunate effects, as in the ease of the slash in tutorial. But the total costs continue to rise--employee wages and faculty salaries have gone up, as have heat, electricity, books, and so on up and down and throughout the list of necessary expenditures.
As for increasing the income by enlarging the endowment fund, President Conant recognized the need for a major effort in this direction last June when be told the alumni at commencement that the University would need $90 million in the near future. Since then, although no concerted drive has been undertaken, he has appointed a special assistant whose job is fundamentally concerned with boosting the endowment fund. But the pain with which the money for the Lamont Library is being extracted from reluctant alumni, as well as the timidity that characterized the War Memorial Committee whenever large sums of money were mentioned, would indicate that the sort of money needed to avert a tuition increase is not easily to be had.
The increase in tuition income has therefore loomed as a last resort. About half of this increase will be made necessary by the drop in enrollment next fall. Whether or not it is wise to lower enrollment at this time in view of its effect on the tuition rate is a complicated issue with strong arguments on both sides. But the fact remains that even if the student body remained at its present size, a substantial tuition rise would be necessary.
Granting that students must accept the inevitability of the tuition boost, it is at the same time imperative that the College accept the increased responsibility toward students that the boost will involve. To begin with, the administration must exert every effort to keep the rise as small as possible. It must then set up competent machinery to deal fairly and generously with hardship cases caused by this rise. It must maintain the standards of its Student Employment Office at the very highest level. And finally, it must administer its scholarship funds, some of which have grown substantially during the war and the postwar reign of the GI, so that the College will continue to educate large numbers of students from every income group and from every part of the nation.