In recent years, the financial strategists of other universities have parried inflation by wrapping tuition, board, and other college expenses in one large and increasingly expensive package. Provost Buck, by including "free" athletic spectator and participation tickets in his financial recommendations to the Corporation, has made a bow to this tactic. But the Provost's parcel seems covered with question marks.
First, we must clear up the misconception that the College will be giving students something for nothing. Tuition money has always paid for HAA operations, and will continue to do so whether the HAA is in the red, black, or purple. The difference is that now students who use the athletic plant pay an added sum to the University, under the Provost's plan athletic costs become part of tuition. Every student "underwrites" the HAA equally. The Provost is following the strategy of the makers of innumerable chocolate bars, who, when inflation hit the cocoa bean, produced new bigger bars--at double the price.
Now, it is easy to groan at, but impossible to quarrel with a tuition hike. It has been coming ever since the inflation of the Korean War. But any tuition rise at Harvard starts of frenzied grubbing for more scholarship funds, more student employment, and other ways to help the students from average income families meet the new rates. It shoves still farther into the future the day when Harvard can achieve a truly national student body, both geographically and economically, Because these unpleasant repercussions are inevitable, any tuition rise should be as small as possible.
A Hollow Ring
But the doubts are not only on principle. The specific ingredients in the Provost's package seem to ring hollow when their equity is tested. First, a more liberal dispensation of towels and tickets will naturally increase the costs of the athletic program. Thus, the cost per student, even when spread among everybody, could not appreciably slash the present cost of a participation card and a ticket book, which presenty mounts up to $170 for four years. This is a large chunk, even when stretched over a college career.
The Provost, of course, believes that athletic facilities are as much a part of the college as libraries. But one can hardly label watching football games a vital educational activity. When students patronize the stacks of Lamont, they are fulfilling certain academic requirements. Sooner or later, they must pass examinations to determine if they have soaked in enough knowledge. But at Soldiers Field, nobody has to absorb anything except perhaps fresh air. The college has a traditional duty to turn out men capable of its degrees, but none to manufacture students who know its football cheers and basketball tactics.
Although playing at sports is far more valuable to an education than watching them, College physical requirements stop after a year of physical training, the ability to swim, and the knack of sliding down a rope. But even if athletic participation is essential to education, when inflation forces a choice between it and a greater tuition rise, athletics should take a back seat for the duration. A top notch sports plan means little to the student who must work longer hours to make up for his increased tuition package. It means even less when he knows part of the money he is earning is footing the cost of someone else's lockers and showers.
If the Provost wishes to sell his parcel, he should show how "free" athletic programs will not mean just another weight of bills on the middle income non scholarship student. Until that is done, if appears that the pay as you play idea of ticket books and participation tickets is a better arrangement.