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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

Age of Inflation

By Joanne L. Kenen

Harvard students were forced to acknowledge the pressures of the real world yet again last week when Dean Rosovsky announced that he will ask the Harvard Corporation to approve a $475 increase in tuition room and board fees for 1977-78, bringing the total costs of a College year to the magic number $7000.

Several students said this week the increase didn't surprise them. Tuition hikes are almost as much as a ritual--though a less welcome one--as the Yale game and spring fever.

"If I was ten years older I could have lived in the Age of Aquarius," one student said. "But instead I got stuck in the Age of Inflation."

Members of the current senior class paid $5025 when they entered Harvard in the fall of 1973. Next year's price rise is only slightly less than the $500 boost which brought this year's fee to $6525.

Administrators attributed the increase to rising costs of operating the University, particularly skyrocketing energy costs.

Rosovsky said the administration does a "tremendous amount of worrying about the cost increases. At the moment they are unavoidable." He added that Harvard is "not in the business to make money."

Most families' incomes are larger now than a few years ago, so the proportion of a family's revenue spent on college education has remained "relatively stable," he added.

The administration will try to devise programs to help the middle income families who feel "the real crunch," Rosovsky said.

Seamus P. Malin '62, director of financial aid, said last week that most students already receiving financial aid will get larger grants next year to help compensate for the higher costs.

Malin added that "middle income family" is a misleading term at Harvard, however. Most students on financial aid come from families whose average yearly income is $18,000; the majority of students in the College come from homes with annual incomes ranging between $25,000 and $40,000.

Tuition increases weren't always automatic. Students who came here in the early '60s found their tuition, room and board fees stayed just about level throughout their four years here.

But the Faculty has operated at a loss for eight of the last ten years. Cost cutting efforts trimmed the deficit from roughly $1.4 million in 1973-74 to $249,000 last year. Robert E. Kaufmann '62, assistant dean for finance and administration, said last week he expects the Faculty will break even in the current fiscal year, although there is still a chance there will be some red ink on the charts.

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