Low-income parents Harvard University
students soon will not have to contribute to the cost of their
children’s college education. According The New York Times,
Harvard currently asks parents earning less than $40,000 a year to
contribute an average of $2,300 per year to their children’s
tuition costs. Under the new plan, they would not be required to
make a contribution. In addition, average contributions from
parents earning between $40,000 and $60,000 will drop from $3,500
to $2,250. Although students will still be required to work during
the academic year and summer months in order to contribute to the
cost of their education, this new plan is an important step towards
equalizing education at Harvard, but the prospects of emulating
this plan across the country are not promising.

Laura Wong

Harvard — along with the vast majority of other Ivy League
schools and elite private universities — has traditionally
been a school composed of the white, affluent elites, demonstrated
in the demographics of the university. Currently, only 7 percent of
Harvard students are from the lowest quarter of income brackets and
16 percent are from the lower half. Meanwhile, almost 75 percent of
Harvard’s student population comes from families in the
highest income quarter. The main reason for this discrepancy is its
high cost of tuition and living expenses, which can reach upwards
of $44,000 a year. The implementation of this new plan, however,
will relieve low-income parents of this heavy financial burden,
giving talented students from lower-income families an opportunity
to attend Harvard. Encouraging these students to apply is an
important step in reducing elitism at the university.

Not only will the new plan assuage the financial burden of
parents with children already at Harvard, but it will encourage
lower-income students of future generations to apply as well.
Currently, with the cost of tuition so high, low-income students
are discouraged from even seeking an education from Harvard because
it is difficult to find the means of financing their education.
Under the new plan, however, these students will be offered the
hope of an affordable education at one of the most elite
universities in the country, thereby encouraging them to strive
toward acceptance while still in middle and high school.

Harvard’s new plan should serve as a precedent for other
institutions of higher education and spark a nationwide trend.
Unfortunately, this does not seem likely. Harvard has a $19.3
billion endowment, helping to finance low-income students’
tuition. Although the plan is expected to cost $2 million next year
to help about 1,000 of its students, this will hardly affect
Harvard’s resources. However, other universities with less
money and more students will not be able to subsidize lower-income
students in the same way. Because of this, it is important to find
other means to help financially needy students to obtain a
high-quality college education.Harvard’s new plan is
admirable, but it is only a beginning in making higher education
more accessible.

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