An article on college expenses, which is intended to correct some prevailing misconceptions about Harvard, appeared in the last number of the Monthly. If is somewhat in the vein of the recent speech of Professor Palmer on the same subject, and it would be interesting to make some comparison between the two. The writer starts by commenting upon the erroneous idea of the public that Harward is extravagant, and after stating that Professor Palmer's estimates are not correct, and that the catalogue is absolutely misleading, presents a new table. The reader, prepared for figures lower than ever, suddenly finds himself confronted by sums double or treble the college estimates; and yet the author declares at the end that he has proved what he set out to. This shows plainly that his views of expenses are more liberal than those of Professor Palmer, the college authorities, or indeed the general public. Moreover, the evident lack of material for computation makes the tables less valuable than they might be. Professor Palmer based his estimates upon the testimony of about two hundred and twenty men; whereas the author of "College Expenses" claims to have talked with only "one or more from each grade enumerated"- about thirty perhaps. One excuse for these new estimates is that "several men neglected to state such expenses as livery and theatres;" but such omissions would not affect the lower grades where the changes are most pronounced.
In the table of expenses there are many items which demand attention, but for a more satisfactory comparison with the estimates in the catalogue, several of the grades might be omitted. Since it is not evident why assistance such as scholarships should reduce the expenses, there is no need for the column headed, "Least without assistance;" and the column under "Athletic" is unnecessary, because there is not much difference between it and those on either side, and because some of the expenses, such as theatres and parties, where an increase is made, are for the very luxuries from which the athlete is debarred. This leaves as in the catalogue the columns, Least (assisted), Economical, Moderate (modest), and Very Liberal (well to do), besides three higher grades which need but casual comment. In the lowest grade the estimate for rooms and gas is $44. This must include fuel also, for the author later gives the price of the cheapest rooms as $25 and the least expenditure for gas, $9; and since fuel is not given as a separate item, it is probably included here in all classes. $25 deducted from the estimate for clothing would leave sufficient for a careful man; and the allowance for sundries should be cut $50 fully in order to approach Professor Palmer's estimates. Since every considerable item of expense is given separately, the allowances for sundries in all grades seem disproportionately large. The tables in two of the letters in the appendix to Professor Palmer's published speech, as well as the estimates in the catalogue, confirm this view. Travelling expenses are placed at $20, but if this refers to travelling during term time, it should be omitted entirely, for a man who was living as closely as possible would not go home for the short vacations if the cost was so great. On the other hand the expense of crossing the continent must be taken into account for a man living in the West. These deductions bring the estimate down to about $500, the limit for necessary expenses set in President Eliot's last report, where he comments upon Professor Palmer's speech. Under the next column, "Economical," occur some remarkable items, the most noticeable of which is perhaps $25 for a servant. It can hardly be called economical for a man of limited means to pay his janitor $25 for blacking boots and tending the fire. With a few exceptions the estimates for an economical man should be about what are given under the column "Least without assistance," but some of these even are too high. The allowance for sundries should be reduced as before by at least $75. The items, janitor, fees, and extra travel, should be struck out, subscriptions and societies together reduced by $10, and theatres, dinners and parties by $5-for these are luxuries in which a man with a small purse would not expect to indulge. It is doubtful whether a man living economically would feel able to spend $20 for travelling, but since the author makes a special point of this item, it may be allowed to stand. The changes suggested would bring the total of this grade to about $700. In a similar way the estimate for a man of moderate means, under the column "Modest," should be cut down from $1200 to about $900, reducing especially sundries by $100, clothing by $75, and board by $30, besides many of the smaller items. The four upper grades may be left approximately as they stand. For books and stationery the estimates in these as well as in teh other columns are perhaps rather low, but there is considerable variation in this respect in the needs of different courses and branches of study.
The number of men computed to come under the various grades is not given definitely, but, so far as it is given, shows a wide variation from Professor Palmer's figures. The author of "College Expenses" states that of the two lowest grades together-men spending less than $810-there are about thirty men from each class; whereas Prof. Palmer, in answer to the question "What is a competent allowance for a man coming to Harvard?" says: "If he will live closely, carefully, yet with full regard to all that is required, he may do so, with nearly half his class, on not more than $800." Again the author apologizes for making a grade as low as $600, saying that only half-a-dozen men are probably included in it; while Professor Palmer calculates that almost one-quarter of each class spend between $450 and $650. As to the four upper grades, it seems hardly worth while to analyze so closely the expenses of "hardly more than a quarter" of the class, when the other end of the scale is treated in such a cursory review. One column instead of four would reduce the exaggerated proportions of this part of the table. The author claims that over two-thirds majority of each class spend from $810 to $1,410; but this evidently a mere guess based upon data altogether insufficient. Professor Palmer's much more trustworthy calculation places nearly one-half of each class below the limit of $800. Moreover the author does not treat consistently the material he has actually collected, for he states near the beginning of his article that he has made the highest grade "to include some dozen wealthy men in each class," but asserts near the end that of this grade "there are not six in a class," and of the next only "about ten." The conclusions which he draws are in reality correct, but are not such as most people would draw from the figures presented, but rather the contrary. Professor Palmer showed clearly and on very good evidence that life at Harvard is not unreasonably expensive, and substantially confirmed the estimates in the catalogue. The tables in "College Expenses" are based upon in sufficient information, are faulty in detail, and upon the whole give the impression that there is after all some ground for the reputation of Harvard for extravagance.