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Going the Extra Mile: Students Trek to MIT for Alternative Courses

With all the resources available to Harvard students, it can be easy to forget that Harvard is not the only world-class institution in Cambridge. Just a mile down Massachusetts Avenue, or two stops down the Red Line, is MIT, home to some of the world’s most renowned faculty, cutting-edge facilities, and groundbreaking research.

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Harvard students cross-registered at MIT account for 96 class seats.

When Harvard upperclassmen query for courses, they have not only Harvard’s course catalog at their disposal but also MIT’s. However, while roughly 5,000 Harvard undergraduates are eligible—freshmen are not allowed to cross-register—College students account for only 96 seats in classes at MIT, according to data from Harvard’s Registrar’s Office. Meanwhile, 119 MIT students are taking classes at Harvard, according to MIT’s Office of the Registrar.

Though some see this as a testament to the quality of classes Harvard has to offer, others think it is a missed opportunity to take different types of courses with a different student body.

A CONTRAST TO LIBERAL ARTS

Of the 96 enrollments on the eastern end of Cambridge, 42 are in MIT’s course on Corporate and Financial Accounting. No other MIT course has more than six Harvard undergraduates taking it.

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The multitude of students taking corporate and financial accounting exemplifies what some see Harvard to be lacking and MIT has to offer: practicality.

“It’s one of the more practical courses I’ve taken in college,” Ryan C. Pallas ’16 said. “I don’t think a lot of the classes I’ve taken at Harvard will help me directly with my future career and I think this one will.”

Director of undergraduate studies for Harvard’s Economics department Jeffrey A. Miron said his impression is that many Harvard students taking the accounting class to boost their transcript in order to secure a job in the finance industry.

However, Robin Mount, director of the Office of Career Services, said that employers typically do not expect Harvard students to know accounting, given that the College is a liberal arts school.

“It is not necessary for students to have accounting experience to a land junior summer finance position and most firms provide significant training for full-time hires to gain a basic foundation in financial literacy before they begin their full-time job,” she said.

Despite praising MIT’s ability to provide classes with real world applications, many taking the course believe that cross registration offers an adequate replacement to accounting classes at Harvard. Tiffany H. Song ’16, who is enrolled in Corporate and Financial Accounting, said that having an accounting class would seem contrarian to Harvard’s philosophy of providing students with a well-rounded, liberal arts education.

“I think it’s good that we don’t offer those kinds of courses,” she said. “It forces us to think outside the box.”

Still, Miron said that it would be “fruitful” for Harvard to offer a similar course in accounting.

“It’s too bad that we don’t offer more of that here because it would save the students a trek,” he said. “I suspect we could do at least as good a job. I think there’s lots of intellectually interesting and practical material that would be very helpful to students. ”

DIVERSE EXPERIENCES

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