Tuition Figure More Subjective Than It Seems

Every year, Harvard's tuition goes up. This coming fall and spring students will pay over $1,000 more for their education than they did last year--bringing the grand total to exactly $32,164.

But this figure--presented with some fanfare by Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles--isn't exactly tied to any one factor.

Tuition is not determined solely by student costs. The cost of educating a Harvard student for a year is over $15,000 more than the price students pay.

Instead, factors including competition from other schools, students' willingness to pay, inflation and precedent are combined with cost to produce a ballpark tuition figure usually very similar to that of years before.

And, while increasing costs provide a constant pressure for tuition to increase and bring in more revenue, the small exact amount of that increase seems more a subjective judgment than the product of exact calculation.


One Student: $48,000

It costs $48,000 to put one student through Harvard--including instructional costs, student services, scholarships and other factor, according to the Harvard News Office. Each student only pays about 60 percent of this. The remainder comes from a variety of sources--mainly gifts and investments.

Undergraduates paid $170.9 million in tuition, room and board this year--providing 36.4 percent of the total revenue for the Faculty of Arts and Science (FAS). In addition, FAS collects graduate student aid, $132 million from the endowment, gifts, grants and contracts, sales and others.

On the expenditure side, the FAS budget supports faculty and center research, libraries, museums, student services like House life, financial aid and other institutional needs.

It spends the largest amount--over $133 million--on pure academic costs, such as faculty salaries and benefits for other instructors.

But it is also in charge of funding the branches of the University like the libraries, which are not exclusively for the use of undergraduates and faculty members.

"There are a number of resources used by the whole University that are under the FAS administrative and budgetary control," says Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68. "The athletic facilities are an example."

FAS spends most of its money on services that both directly and indirectly affect its students' education. The unrestricted funds that come from tuition can be used to compensate faculty and pay for salaries, fund administrative buildings and staff, operate instructional departments, and sponsor research.

Student services like counseling, extracurricular activities, and financial aid also fall under the FAS umbrella. These costs may not directly affect academics, but they are a part of a Harvard student's complete education.

Knowles' Decision

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