Most of the top IVY League schools have already taken steps to help low-income households, and in many cases have eliminated tuition for those families who earn less than approximately $60,000. This was a great step in helping increase the number of low-income students who were able to attend these schools as tuition costs ballooned and far outstripped earnings growth.
Well now, Harvard has decided that middle-class and upper-middle-class students have been getting squeezed out. While these families may earn $120-$180,000 dollar, which seems like a nice chunk of change, their tuition rates have been close to $30,000. As a result, many of these students can barely afford to attend, and are often saddled with massive debt that takes them years to pay off.
Harvard is now going to be charging these families tuition equal to 10% of their income, so they can attend without getting royally screwed. So what the heck took so long?! With a $20 billion dollar endowment, they don't need to charge tuition at all.
Harvard's President, Drew Faust had the following to say about the move and its ramifications:
“Education is the engine that makes American democracy work,” she said. “And it has to work, and that means people have to have access.” [NY Times]
Education is the engine that makes democracy work? Wtf does this mean? Anyone? It sounds nice, but it looks to us like an empty statement. Democracy in America works because EVERYONE buys into it. Because when an election is won, there is a non-violent transfer of power, because we all buy into the system, and trust that the polls are accurate.
Now education certainly promotes an informed voter base, which of course leads to an informed and healthy democracy. But it is by no means a prerequisite. And of course America isn't even a true democracy (rather a Republic). Poli-Sci majors feel free to tell us if you feel different!