Harvard?s Aid to Middle Class Pressures Rivals
By JONATHAN D. GLATER
Just days after Harvard University announced this month that it would significantly expand financial aid to students from families earning as much as $180,000 a year, William G. Durden, president of Dickinson College
in Carlisle, Pa., got a query from a student?s father, asking whether the college would follow Harvard?s lead.
?He even said, ?I know this costs a lot of money, but you should do it anyway,? ? Dr. Durden said. The president replied that Dickinson
, a small liberal arts college where the full annual cost of tuition, fees, room and board nears $45,000, did not have the money to match Harvard?s largess.
Because of Harvard, Dr. Durden said ruefully in recalling the exchange, ?a lot of us are going to be under huge pressure to do these things that we just can?t do.?
By substantially discounting costs for all but the very wealthiest students, Harvard shook up the landscape of college pricing. Like Dr. Durden, officials of other colleges say its move will create intense pressure on them to give more aid to upper-middle-class students and will open the door to more parental price haggling.
Officials at colleges without anything like Harvard?s $35 billion endowment say a rush to give tuition discounting to the middle and upper middle class at institutions like theirs could end up shifting financial aid from low-income students to wealthier, make pricing seem even more arbitrary and create pressure to raise full tuition to pay for all the assistance.
Some academics who study higher education predict that Harvard?s decision may even reduce economic diversity at Harvard itself, even though the university already allows any admitted student from a family earning $60,000 or less to attend virtually free of charge.
?It will educate those parents into thinking, ?Eighteen thousand dollars a year is what we ought to be paying; why should we have to pay more than that?? ? said John Strassburger, president of Ursinus College, where full costs are currently $43,160.
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