Summer Costs A Pretty Penny

Harvard Summer School’s highest-in-the-nation price driven by room and board

With a price tag of $8,135, Harvard Summer School is no bargain, especially considering the College Board report that 70 percent of students attending four-year colleges in 2004-2005 paid less than $8000 in annual tuition and fees.

And Harvard Summer School’s going rate, at more than $1,000 per a week, makes it more expensive than competing programs at premier institutions like Yale, Brown, Stanford, Duke, Georgetown, and Northwestern.

An analysis of costs at summer schools around the country conducted by The Crimson revealed that while Harvard Summer School’s 5,000 students may not pay a premium for their classes, about half of them fork over sums of money for room and board significantly larger than those charged by other summer schools—and by Harvard College for the use of those same rooms and dining halls during the academic year.

HARVARD HILTON?

About 2,500 Harvard Summer School students pay these steep costs for the privilege of living on the Harvard campus and eating their meals in the decorous Annenberg Hall. Forty percent of the boarders are high-school students from across the country who have little choice but to pay up to live on-campus with supervision.

Harvard Summer School costs nearly $466 per week for room and board, $184 per week more than Harvard College charges students during the school year for the exact same rooms and food, and $139 a week more than the average of $327 per a week charged by nine competing programs at top-tier institutions.

This fall, Harvard College students will pay about $6.20 a meal and $21.60 per night, while summer school students are currently paying $10.71 per meal for the same food and $34.38 for each night in the same dorms.

Assistant dean at the Summer School Robert Neugeboren ’83 said, however, that Summer School students living in the upperclass houses do get more space than students normally get during the year. The various houses used by the summer school hold about 400 students each during the school year, but 240 students at most during the summer.

Neugeboren did not mention whether the Secondary School students living in Harvard Yard for the summer got more space than Harvard freshmen have during the year.

FAS financial administrators did not return calls requesting comment on why room and board costs are so much higher over the summer than during the year, and Summer School financial administrators were traveling and unavailable for comment.

However, Neugeboren did say that it would be difficult to untangle shared expenses between the summer school and college students to determine if one group is paying more than their fair share.

“The Summer School is part of FAS,” he said, explaining that because the Summer School is financially a unit of FAS, it is nearly impossible to separate the Summer School’s costs and finances from the rest of FAS, especially because of shared costs.

STANDARD FARE

Despite Neugeboren’s claims that a commercial relationship between FAS and the Summer School does not exist, Harvard streamlines tuition costs between the two.

In raw total costs, Harvard Summer School ranked as among the most expensive top-tier Summer Schools in the country.

On a per week basis, however, Brown Summer School—which is one week shorter than Harvard’s—was more expensive.

Tuition costs for a single course at nine top-tier summer schools including Harvard averaged at about $2,295, ranging from a low of $1,750 for a course at Yale to a high of $2,782.50 for a course at Stanford. Charging $2,125 for two courses, Harvard prices were just below average and near the middle of the pack.

Neugeboren said that tuition rates for the Summer School are set according to prices for comparable services offered by the College during the year.

“It has to do with faculty and support staff salaries [for the summer], which are based on college salaries,” he said.

PRICE TAKERS

Although the Summer School costs more than comparable programs, Harvard has little difficulty filling its dorms and classrooms over the summer.

Not surprisingly, many students say that cost is not a factor in their decision to attend.

“It’s expensive, but you don’t get an opportunity like this every day,” said Mata R. Burke, a high school student in the Secondary School Program (SSP). “I just focused on the offerings [not cost],” she added.

Samuel D. Chamberlain, another student in the SSP, said that although he looked at several different summer programs including those at Northwestern and Stanford, he “didn’t pay much attention to the costs of other programs.”

The Summer School does offer some financial aid. Neugeboren said that most of the aid is awarded to local high-school students—who do not live on-campus or eat in the dining hall—in the form of tuition waivers.

“It is not a large percentage” of students, Neugeboren said, though he added that he did not know the exact number of Summer School students on financial aid.

—Staff writer Adam M. Guren can be reached at guren@fas.harvard.edu.