Tuition Concerns Raised in Cheating Scandal

The unclear timeline for decisions in this fall’s sweeping plagiarism investigation has raised questions about potential disparities in tuition fees for students asked to withdraw from Harvard mid-semester. If the College follows its standard procedures for calculating the bill of students who leave in the middle of the term, some accused students could face a steeper financial burden if their case is resolved later in the semester.

Jeff Neal, a spokesperson for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, declined to comment Monday on whether the Administrative Board has issued decisions yet to any of the approximately 125 students under investigation for cheating in Government 1310: “Introduction to Congress.”

Any student who withdrew from the College prior to Thursday would face no tuition charges and owe only several hundred dollars in room and service fees.

But beginning Thursday, students who leave school later in the semester—either voluntarily or not—are still required to pay partial tuition fees for the fall term. The ultimate portion of the nearly $19,000 tuition for the semester that each student owes could be dependent on when the Ad Board gets to his or her case.

According to a chart on the Ad Board website, students who are required to withdraw between Thursday and the end of the month will pay nearly $4,700 in tuition; students who leave between Oct. 1 and Oct. 28 will owe the College nearly $9,400 in tuition; and students who withdraw between Oct. 29 and Dec. 3 will see their tuition costs rise to $14,100.

The Crimson has previously reported that one student heard from Secretary of the Ad Board John “Jay” L. Ellison in a meeting that he could expect a decision by November at the latest.

With each passing day between now and Dec. 3, students who withdraw will also have to pay $46 per diem in room fees. During that same period, they will be required to pay a proportionate fraction of board fees for the semester, which total about $2,600, based on the number of days enrolled. These students will also be billed for a service fee, which would be nearly $300 for students who withdraw in September and rise to nearly $900 for those who leave in November.

Students on financial aid who are required or choose to withdraw will receive a proportionate fraction of their expected financial aid package based on the amount of time they were enrolled at the College.

This potential escalation in fees could encourage some students, especially those who are expecting the most extreme penalty, to voluntarily withdraw from the College before their case is reviewed. In an internal email obtained by The Crimson, Ellison wrote to his “Colleagues”—a group of recipients who one resident dean identified as others of the resident deans—that “the only folks that may want to really consider [a leave of absence] are those students who know that they cheated.”

Still, this potentially uneven financial burden on the many individuals entangled in an incident that occurred within the space of only a few days has been a source of concern among accused students.

“If one student gets [required to withdraw] in September and another gets [required to withdraw] in November, that’s a huge disparity in finances, and that’s not fair,” said one student under investigation, who was granted anonymity by The Crimson after asking not to be named in an academic dishonesty case.

That student expressed hope that Harvard would consider that financial disparity as the Ad Board resolves cases, perhaps by offering a waiver or refund to ensure that some students do not bear a larger financial burden than others.

Another student accused in the scandal wrote in an emailed statement that, because he is on nearly full financial aid, he is not worried about his tuition costs if he is required to take a year off. That student, who maintains his innocence, said that he could still incur costs associated with a later required withdrawal, including money lost on textbooks for courses that will not count and storage fees while he is away from Cambridge.

In contrast to the potentially uneven financial burden that accused students could face, no implicated students required to withdraw from the College during this semester will face academic repercussions for partially-completed courses taken this fall. Ellison said that even students asked to leave the College after the fifth Monday add-drop deadline will have this fall’s courses wiped from their transcripts.

—Staff writer Rebecca D. Robbins can be reached at rrobbins@college.harvard.edu.

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