December 13, 2007

Is anyone hurt by Harvard's new financial aid policy?

Matt, in his critique of my complaints of Harvard's financial aid overhaul, argues that this isn't a zero-sum game, that Harvard is still giving the bottom 60% of income in the U.S. a free ride.To the extent that this new policy probably won't affect financial aid to poorer Americans is true, but this is a tremendous commitment. If they are losing $10,000 a year in revenue from a large percentage of their students that is going to add up quickly. (Let's say about 2,000 students fall--just a hunch on what the number is--into the household segment that is going to benefit here: Then Harvard is losing $80 million per class, that's a lot.)That is clearly going to cut into Harvard's other commitments, many of which are more worthwhile then making college more affordable for families that make $160,000 a year--especially when so much needs to be done to make a degree from Harvard attainable for so many Americans.Of course, this doesn't mean that the new financial aid policy hurts poor Americans in a tangible way. It does, however, show where Harvard's priorities are: attracting the smartest students. That's a fine priority, but we shouldn't all laud them for being progressive or altruistic when it's so obviously selfish.