STUDENTS AT the Law School who want to take public service jobs after graduation can breathe a sigh of relief. The school last week announced its decision to dramatically expand a program that will help such students pay off their student loans if their jobs pay less than $20,000 per year.
Harvard should and must be more than just an entrance to a self-indulgent world of financial or social success. Harvard is a most worthy institution when it produces graduates who through their studies or their actions somehow serve society. Harvard, as a great center of learning, does a pretty good job helping people who take the former route. But it also has a responsibility to help those who choose the latter way and wish to enter public service fields.
The Law School took a giant step last week in fulfilling that responsibility. But law students aren't the only students burdened with mounds of debt after graduation. Many graduates of the College are also so financially strained that they simply cannot afford to take a public service job. In fact, indebted College graduates--many of whom owe more than $10,000 after graduation--are in at least one way worse off than indebted law school grads. They don't even have the option of taking the "easy" way out that law school grads have, that of just taking a high-paying job with a private law firm.
There is no reason why the College cannot have such a program as well. The Medical School, for instance, has one. Implementing such a program at the undergraduate level may be more complex--and certainly more expensive--than at the professional schools. Still, the potential benefits of such a program for society justifies that the attempt at least be made. The College owes such a program not only to society, but to its own principles.