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Much as many a good liberal and radical hates to admit it, Harvard depends and has depended since its beginnings on the generosity and patronage of the rich. Two sources contribute to the income of the University. First there are the tuitions; which keep the system going and, roughly speaking, pay the current expenses. Second there are the gifts of alumni and friends, the basis of the University's expansion in the last seventy years and the foundation of Harvard's ability to continue as possibly the most distinguished center of intellectual activity in the world today. Interest on these gifts and the tuitions share half and half the black side of the ledgers.
It is fairly obvious that the gifts come from the rich. While a sizable portion are the results of Class Fund contributions, the really important chunks of capital emanate from such sources as the Widener and the Harkness fortunes. Harvard's expansion and consolidation have been achieved thanks to the generosity of Boston merchants and New York entrepreneurs.
Less obvious but just as sound is the generalization that Harvard tuitions emanate from the rich. The upper five per cent of the nation forms the backbone of the clientele that patronizes Harvard and buys for its sons the education which Harvard has to sell. Even scholarship students, varying amounts of whose scholarships are paid from endowments, come from a relatively well-to-do portion of the community. It is doubtful whether many students, even the National Scholars, have fathers who carry union cards.
We are now in the midst of an emergency situation which may change into war any day. Whether it does or not, the future of the wealthy and even of the "comfortably well-off" portions of the population is likely to be more than a little rocky. In the first place taxes are nibbling and will bite off even more of the incomes and the established fortunes which support the rich. A ten thousand dollar income just isn't going to be ten thousand dollars when the government gets through with it, and the owner is likely to decide to reduce his budget by buying Junior a state university education instead of a Harvard one.
In the second place, the people of the country are finally waking up to the fact that the word democracy has social and economic as well as political implications. We have a democratic governmental scheme. But, as has been pointed out for years, there is little that is equal in the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness between the worlds of upper and lower Park Avenue. Now, with a war for the preservation of this nonexistent concept on the nation's threshold, there is every likelihood that the long-awaited extension of democracy will come with the battles. If our guess is not wrong, in other words, there will be no "bloated rich" after the war.
Harvard, then, is facing an impasse. In the next few years there will have to be, willy nilly, a drastic reorganization of the University in order that it may continue to exist. Not only after the emergency but during the emergency, changes will be necessary. How can the price of education be cheapened without lowering standards? Can Harvard accept Government aid as a national university? What will happen to Harvard's ever-expanding library system? What will a Harvard education mean in years to come? We cannot foresee the answers to these questions, but in the next few day's in the editorial columns of the Crimson we would like to make some guesses.
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