Student Services Fee Funds House-Related Expenses

$954 fee goes to student advising, proctors

When Eliot House Committee (HoCo) co-chair Anna R. Himmelrich ’05 got her first termbill the summer before she arrived at Harvard, her parents noted the student services fee and promptly asked where the money, which currently amounts to $954, was going.

Himmelrich said she was initially startled to discover that the fee helped fund House costs and the Freshman Year Program.

“That much money is necessary for services above and beyond tuition, room, and board?” she wrote in an e-mail.

According to Associate Dean of the College Thomas A. Dingman ’67, the student services fee used to be included in the room rent, which comes in at $2,487.

But around 1978, the student services fee began to be billed separately, he said.

“Each college constructs termbills in different ways,” Dingman said. “Some bundle it with other expenses.”

In Harvard’s case, student services covers the cost of running House offices, libraries, security and tutorial programs, as well as other related building expenses, Dingman said. Dingman said the Freshman Year Program money goes towards the proctor and advising system.

“Each House acts as independent centers of tutorial, advising and record-keeping functions,” Dingman said. “[The student services fee] covers the expenses of being organized this way.”

Part of the student services fee, Dingman said, is also funneled towards staff appointments that ensure that student records are kept up to date and confidential.

After three years at the College, Himmelrich said that she now sees the $954 as a worthwhile investment.

“My experience at Harvard has been shaped by these opportunities to be part of the dynamic, diverse and fascinating Eliot House community, and the role of dedicated faculty and staff is inestimable to the creation of that environment,” she wrote. “The House communities set Harvard apart from other undergraduate experiences, and as someone who really loves and cares about my House, I think it’s money well spent.”

And while Currier HoCo Secretary Lacey R. Whitmire ’05 admitted that she was not previously aware of where the student services fee went, she said that her experiences in the Yard as well as in her House justified the cost.

“[My first-year proctor] definitely helped our entryway bond and transition into college more smoothly,” she wrote in an e-mail. “And in Currier House, as well, I’ve had a good experience with tutors and advising.”

But Whitmire noted that her positive experience with tutors and advising was more often than not the exception.

In opting to come here, Dingman said students are “buying a residential plan that ensures personal attention.”

But Laura E. Martin ’05, a Dunster House resident, said that when it came to advising and housing issues, she felt the fee had not been used to its full advantage.

“It doesn’t seem to be very helpful at this point, and there isn’t much of an attempt for House advisers to reach out to students besides the occasional pre-law or pre-med panel,” she wrote in an e-mail.

—Staff writer Margaret W. Ho can be reached at mwho@fas.harvard.edu.