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Harvard Extension School Enrollment Up 8 Percent, DCE Says

Harvard Extension School is seeing an uptick in enrollment.
Harvard Extension School is seeing an uptick in enrollment. By Jonathan G. Yuan
By Andy Z. Wang, Crimson Staff Writer

Enrollment at Harvard Extension School is up 8 percent in the 2020-2021 school year, according to Division of Continuing Education spokesperson Harry J. Pierre.

The Extension School, which typically offers classes for both in-person and distance learners, provides Harvard’s academic offerings for nontraditional learners. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Extension School has waived its on-campus requirements and shifted exclusively to virtual content delivery.

Earlier this year, the Extension School began new academic gap year and undergraduate certificate programs, in addition to its degree-granting and graduate certificate programs. Extension School degree candidates may earn Bachelor’s and Masters of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies.

In an email to The Crimson, Pierre wrote that many programs, including those which traditionally tend not to reach capacity, have seen increased demand.

“Enrollments at HES look strong and have increased nearly 8% over the last year,” Pierre wrote. “We’ve seen increased enrollments in courses and from new student registrations as well. Many of our courses that traditionally have seen low enrollment have seen increased enrollment or are at capacity.”

First-year Extension School student Kody Christiansen said it was always his dream to attend Harvard, and that the Extension School’s coursework flexibility ultimately drew him in.

“With the bachelor's program, you can sort of build your own concentration,” Christiansen said. “They have things laid out for you, like humanities is your overall, but then there's classes from everything.”

Christiansen also cited the vigor of Harvard coursework as a major draw.

“I love a challenge, and I'm so grateful that these programs are not less than; they're not made so that people can just watch TV on another screen while you're watching your lesson,” Christiansen said. “You have to be involved, just like every other school at this university.”

Extension School students have the opportunity to involve themselves in University student organizations in addition to Extension School-only offerings. Christiansen said he’s found a home with the Phillip Brooks House Association on campus.

“I feel so lucky to have been asked to be a student leader for Harvard's Global Day of Service. Because I was homeless for many years and so many amazing organizations helped me get through that, I found this new love for helping other people because of that,” Christiansen said. “And so when I saw the Phillips Brooks House Association call for student leaders for this event, I was right on, I think I was the first person to apply.”

Even as other schools across the University face budget constraints due to the pandemic — notably, the Graduate School of Education announced that they would pause doctoral admissions — Pierre wrote that the Extension School was confident about its financial future, as well as the quality of its academic offerings.

“The financial outlook for Harvard Extension School, and the rest of DCE, remain strong,” Pierre wrote. “With most of our programming for the academic year being online it has given us the ability to offer more courses and programming to students and has increased the capacity for community building.”

Correction: September 28, 2020

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the names of the degrees HES confers. In fact, they are Bachelor's and Masters of Liberal Arts.

—Staff writer Andy Z. Wang can be reached at

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