Total Real Cost of Education Here Stays Near Constant for 300 Years

The "total real cost" of a Harvard education is the same today as in the time of the Puritans, according to a survey published last Sunday by Margery Somers Foster, lecturer on economics at Mount Holyoke College.

In the Harvard of the 17th Century, says Miss Foster's book "Out of Smalle Beginings," sending a boy through four years of college took the two years' full pay of a laborer--or the purchase price of a small house ("38 x 17 and 10 foot stud," clapboard, with three chimneys).

And the scholarship office was busy too. "Sometimes as many as half of the students had help in scholarships or jobs toward their college costs. About 25 per cent of the students regularly received scholarship aid."

Profesors must have demanded smaller salaries in those days, though, because in the 1600's tuition was only about 15 per cent of total college cost. Food took the most from the student's pocket--averaging six pounds five shillings per year, or five times as much as tuition. But at most meals students paid only for what they ate, and poor students often lived on half as much food as their rich friends.

Without the House system, student rent was a mere 16 shillings, and an extra 2 shillings went for glass-mending (broken windows). Gallery money for a required seat in the meetinghouse cost a shilling a year.

There is no record of a fine for late study cards, but the College charged one penny for missing prayers, and three pence for entering the kitchen without permission. Total costs for misbehavior often mounted to an average of two shillings per year for each student.