The University's announcements of increases in the cost of education have followed one another so rapidly the last four years, that students are some-times tempted to ignore the specific reasons given for the rises and, in their affluent complacency, accept them as part of the general inflationary trend of the times.
Few people contest the point that the costs of college education are rising and will continue to do so ad infinitum, so long as the national economy remains one of "gradual inflation." We have been converted and convinced, if not by the politicians, then by the educators and the economists that such is the case. In the face of this, to protest each increase as an increase seems futile and un-realistic.
It is not always intuitively obvious, however, why the increases, even if they must come in-evitably, must come together and in a relatively concentrated time period. Taken in the aggregate, two tuition, three board, and two room rent increases have been decreed in the last three years. The most recent announcement, that room rents will increase by 15 per cent next year, follows an raise of equal percentage in room rents which went into effect in the fall of 1957.
This, along with the fact that board rates have gone up each year for the last three years, would seem to indicate that the University's "onward and upward" campaign is in full swing. What this means, of course, is that increases of one kind or another will continue each year, until Harvard's "expansion phase" begins to level off. In addition, since it appears that the Program will not achieve its goal of $82.5 million by June, 1959, its failure is only one more reason to expect continued increases in student costs. In the words of one Administration official, a lot of students are going to have to "grin and bear it."
Usually, at this point, the University rallies to the defense of its scholarship and loan programs, pointing out that, generally speaking, scholarships have kept pace with the tuition and board increases. Accepting this, it still means that two-thirds of the class of '59, those without scholarship benefit, have had to bear total cost increases of approximately $650 in the last three years.
Some of these students have proved they can "grin and bear it," but with scholarships and reserve family resources denied them, others have had to find some other way out. Thus, concurrent with the expansion boom, and the cost increases, the loan program has received added emphasis. As proposed by Professor Harris, loans for financing a college education qualify as the answer for a student in any income bracket. But others, like Dean Monro, see the loan program as the answer for those in the middle income group, students caught without a scholarship. And, in Monro's words, the loan program is currently doing "a booming business."
Certainly the College must expand and improve its facilities, and the expense of such a program will inevitably be paid for, at least partially, by the students. But the "gradual inflation" of the national economy seems noticeably small beside the rise of college costs. When one considers that there were only two tuition raises in the seven years from 1949 to 1956, and that during that same period the board and room rates remained extremely stable, the increases of the last three years have to be thought of as having very little to do directly with the fluctuations of the national economy.
"The lost class of '59" has had to suffer financially for the sake of expansion more than any other class, because the increases of the last three years have come in the midst of its education. Thus, a student who comes to Harvard now and for the next few years expecting the costs of his education to remain stable for four years will have to reshape his outlook by planning for increases before they are announced.
Accepting the College's decision to expand, the most important question the University must decide is when the costs of expansion will be applied. If it continues to concentrate the costs of education, as it has in the last three years, instead of spacing them, Harvard may well find itself with new buildings, higher faculty salaries, and a student body of stock holders.