Harvard Cost Rising, Slowly

Harvard’s tuition is rising only about two-thirds as fast as the national average, according to data released Monday by the College Board.

While the price of a full year of classes at Harvard College is still nearly $8,000 higher than the national average—$31,456 compared to $23,712—tuition here increased at a lower rate this year than the average increase for four-year, private colleges nationwide—3.9 percent versus 6.3 percent.

“Some of the most expensive schools are those that don’t have as large an endowment as Harvard does,” Sandy Baum, the study’s co-author and senior policy analyst at the College Board, said in an interview yesterday. “Certainly that gives Harvard more flexibility in setting tuition.”

The study also found that on average, students on financial aid at four-year private universities received $9,300 toward tuition. While Harvard’s Director of Financial Aid Sally C. Donahue said she could not name Harvard’s average financial aid package for this year, she said that the University will spend $103 million in financial aid for undergraduates.

Baum said a variety of factors contributed to Harvard’s ability to meet its students’ aid needs.

“One, Harvard is rich. Two, most of its students are not poor. It’s not easy for other schools to follow the example set by Harvard because they don’t have the money, and they have more low-income students,” Baum said.

Donahue took issue with the claim that Harvard had fewer lower-income students than most schools.

“We are trying very hard to aggressively recruit talented students world-wide, regardless of their financial backgrounds,” she said.

For the first time, the College Board’s study included information on the size of university endowments, which have come under congressional scrutiny in recent months. Some politicians have questioned why universities with large endowments continue to increase already expensive tuitions.

Baum said her report found that tuition rates had little to do with the size of endowments.

“You can’t solve the college pricing issue through endowments, because most schools don’t have that much money,” she said. “Harvard is already doing what it can for its own students.”