The clouds of uncertainty which for several months past have overspread the financial horizons of the New Deal have caused Harvard's Administration to put off until later than usual the annual decision on the next year's level of room rents, food prices, and other student expenses. But the time is rapidly approaching when these decisions must be made, and, fortunately or unfortunately, the financial horizons are also at last beginning to clear. The dollar has been devalued; prices may be counted upon to rise, if not correspondingly, at least to some extent. At the same time, the outlook for the securities upon which the university chiefly depends for its income, is one of the gloomiest elements in the whole financial picture. It is only too clear that the financial officers of the University will be under strong temptation to urge that student expenses be kept at their present level or even raised for the year 1934-35.
It is the responsibility of President Conant to declare that this shall not be. The level of student expenses is not equitable as it stands. Throughout four years of depression, room rents and food prices have been kept at figures substantially above what many undergraduates could afford to pay. The effect has been to impose a crushing burden on the inadequate scholarship and loan funds, to drive students to all sorts of expedients in an endeavor to make both ends meet, and finally to force not a few to give up then college education or to seek it at some less expensive institution.
Despite the present urgency, moreover, this is not a problem which will disappear with the depression. It is a problem which has existed throughout the Lowell regime and which was brought to acuteness by the institution of the House Plan. It is a problem which vitally concerns the future of Harvard College. President Lowell, while by no means unsympathetic to the financial needs of undergraduates, never attached to this matter its real importance. The cost of attending Harvard was allowed to rise and rise until there exists a very real danger that Harvard will become a rich man's college. If the time over comes when such a charge is justified, then the College will have lost a major part of its usefulness. For no institution can serve the ideals which Harvard has set itself so long as it draws from but one class of the community.
There is reason to belive that President Conant is not only sympathetic to undergraduate financial needs but is also conscious that the level of student expenses is a problem of the first order. Every friend of the College will earnestly hope that he will attack this problem with courage; that he will not be too greatly swayed by persons whose official position narrows their vision to the strict finances of the University budget; and that he will let it be known once and for all that the qualifications for attendance at Harvard College are intellectual and not financial.