While new members were recently elected to the Harvard Board of Overseers last week by University alumni, none of the members of “Free Harvard Fair Harvard” were included — and their loss came as a blow to a movement to open financial access to Harvard.
The group consisted of five men who would like to see tuition dropped at the school in an effort to make Harvard free for all students. Their argument states that by doing so, the school would attract more highly qualified individuals from a variety of backgrounds, which would allow the school to become more racially and ethnically diverse.
Ron Unz, a Harvard alumnus and one of the most vocal members of the group, said he was disappointed at the outcome.
“I do think we certainly got a lot of media coverage and focus out there about the absurd, disproportionate size of Harvard’s investment income compared to their annual tuition, and it could be that will start more pressure on the issue going forward,” Unz told the Times.
Unz suggested that doing away with tuition costs would allow the University to become more diverse. As a free school, he suggested that Harvard would attract more low-income, and minority, individuals, writes Laura Krantz for The Boston Globe.
Although Harvard already offers free tuition to students whose families report making less than $65,000 per year, Unz said that this benefit should be available to all. He suggested the school make use of its massive endowment in order to ensure all students can attend the school at no cost.
The school currently holds the largest endowment in the world, reaching $37.6 billion last year. Abby Jackson for Business Insider reports this to be eight times the estimated net worth of Donald Trump, put at $4.5 billion according to Forbes.
Harvard reported a total of 6,700 students enrolled for the 2015-16 school year with tuition costing $57,200.
However, many have argued against Unz and his group, saying that they are not taking into account the financial contributions the school already makes toward helping its students pay their tuition. Harvard offers financial aid to its students and has awarded over $1.4 billion to its undergraduates in the last ten years.
Harvard notes online that “approximately 70% of our students receive some form of aid, and about 60% receive need–based scholarships and pay an average of $12,000 per year.”
Critics have said that the endowment received by the school is not “one big bank account” and cannot simply be used to offer free tuition for all.
“I hardly think that spending such a tiny slice of Harvard’s investment income on education is so unreasonable, and I find it difficult to believe that undisclosed restrictions on the university’s financial holdings would legally prohibit this,” Unz hit back, in a letter in The Times.
The issue of racial diversity at the school has been a concern for some time, ultimately resulting in a federal lawsuit that argued the school had been discriminating against Asian-Americans during the admissions process. The University has denied these claims, reports Stephanie Saul for The New York Times.
Similar claims were made against other Ivy League schools in a federal complaint made earlier in the week.