April 07, 2006

Interesting Crimson Series

Today, the crimson published several different opinions about making Harvard financial aid better. One is about making Harvard free. This is a great analysis of the ways making Harvard free could have effects beyond just at Harvard. I think it's a really important argument because, even with financial aid, when Harvard is associated with such a high price tag, many people are discouraged from even applying.

Another op-ed warns that this free education would be a Band-Aid solution, since many who get into Harvard are already rich. She also talks about the fact that uses of ceratin parts of the endowment are already restricted, which I find to be a less convincing argument. I think Harvard can find the money. She rightly says that most of this extra money would go to white, rich students. What do you all think? Do you thinkt hat the uncomplicated financial policy of a free Harvard would be worth it, even it is rich, white families that end up paying less?

Another Op-Ed points out how little HFAI has costed Harvard. He writes about middle-income families and their access to Harvard. It would be great to see more numbers that explain this argument, but I guess this is exactly what the calculating-financial-aid-on-an-individual-basis system prevents us from doing - seeing the bigger picture.

There is also an article praising HFAI.

So, quench, think, comment, what are your thoughts?

6 comments:

wannatakethisoutside said...

What?

aurora said...

Someone trolling. I deleted it. (I'm really not a fan of websites depicting gay rape.)

wannatakethisoutside said...

I was hoping someone would bring up the "meritocracy" aspect. It seems so silly to consider something "mericratic" when it obviously is helped so much by expensive things like certain schools or classes.

kaveat said...

I think the original article proposes an intriguing set of ideas, most notably the idea that Harvard COULD be free (for undergrads, i assume) and that it's only a question of whether it wants to. It's other main gift is its accurate depiction of the oft-forgotten fact that the median standard of living in the US has not changed, even when there's been much growth for the upper class, and that class disparity is increasing while class mobility decreases.

But I'd agree with the "Band-Aid" article that combatting that does not involve giving fairly rich kids with high SAT scores a free education so that they can "go abroad during the summer" and graduate only to join Morgan Stanley and lavishly support Harvard in return. There is a need to correct most inequality issues at the very earliest levels, way earlier than even the Band-Aid article implies- at the level of primary schools, secondary schools, and not just through the provision of school infrastructure, but also good nutrition, decent health care, and material aid.

That said, even with all these inequalities, the original article does not recognize that the biggest benefit to Harvard from greater benefits for lower income students is not the moral high ground, but the possibility of getting better students who really know how to think and work hard and fight odds stacked against them. I don't think any of us believe this system is anywhere close to a real meritocracy, and I'm glad that point of view is being increasingly recognized, but the fact is that no institution that is held up by upper class interests is really going to plumb the depths of societal inequality by trying to correct these trends at the early levels at which the seeds of inequality are sown; and any financial aid concessions Harvard has made has been after years of very harsh class criticism. Nevertheless individuals from both within this system and outside can participate in movements such as Teach for America that really do try and deal with inequality from the base upwards, because it's important to recognize that the alternative to the band-aid approach is not the status quo, but rather - well - revolution :) - by which i mean a cohesive and sincere effort towards greater equality on several interrelated fronts.

kaveat said...

Addendum: Also, if Harvard chose, it could avoid slashing worker benefits among the lowest income workers - janitors, security guards, dining hall workers. The sad fact is that the reason FAS has so little money is that Harvard has saved money precisely by demanding that FAS run solely on grants. If anything gives, such as undergrad aid, something else is reined in, usually something that affects people who don't get much press, such as workers' pay and benefits.

emily2 said...

i'm doing work, so i didn't take the time to read the article, but i posted something on that subject a few days ago.

http://waitingfordorothy.blogspot.com/2006/04/harvard-expands-financial-aid-program.html