OP/ED: Higher Education Should Not Be Reserved Only For The Elite

Harvard University announced on Sept. 20 that undergraduate students from low-income families will not have to pay tuition.

Former Harvard University President Larry Summers stated “When only ten percent of the students in elite higher education come from families in the lower half of the income distribution, we are not doing enough.”

If there is an undergraduate honors student with a family earning less than $65,000 a year, that students can go to Harvard University for free.


No student loans, no tuition, no debt. Just a free education that can lead someone on a great career path.

Will other universities jump on this band wagon?

Going to college is extremely pricey, and is even getting more expensive. Depending on the college or university one has attended a student can stay in debt for years. According to Pew Research Center statistics, the average student’s outstanding balance in 2010 was $26,682, but 10 percent of student debtors owed more than $61,894.

According to its website, for the 2013-2014 school year, Harvard will cost an incoming freshman approximately $40,000 without room and board. Total cost is estimated between $58,000 and $63,000.

Not only is the cost for college rising, but so is the debt. Over 48 percent of students who took out college loans and are no longer in school say repaying the debt has made it harder to make ends meet, according to statistics. This has students and their parents asking the same, ongoing question:

Is college really worth it?

According to the study, 57 perecnt of Americans believe the higher education system in the United States fails to provide good value for the money students and their families spend. Although 94 percent of Americans expect their children to continue their education, it’s just too expensive.

Another astonishing statistic: only 22 percent of Americans believe today they can afford to pay for college education, compared to the 39 percent of people who believed they could almost a quarter of a century ago.

While Mercy College is considered to be one of the most affordable private colleges in New York, it can still be costly, especially for those who come from low-income families. Community college is another affordable option, but most community colleges are not four year institutions. Without a bachelor’s degree, finding a job now can be extremely difficult. Sometimes, it’s just as difficult to get a job with a baccalaureate.

This is when the question of continuing onto graduate school comes into play. I’ve been told many times that earning a baccalaureate is not always enough to get a job. Not only will those who continue their education have to undergo the competition of getting into a good graduate school, but the high cost of it as well. It will also leave students with massive debt by the time they finish graduate school, if they decide to further their education. Add that to the costs strudents have spent while earning their bachelor’s degree, and it will leave them in major debt.

Harvard’s solution to allow low-income undergraduate honors students to attend for free is a great incentive for those who have worked hard throughout their four years of high school, but can’t afford to go to college. Other universities should really consider a similar program to help undergraduate students who strive to go to college, but cannot financially.

The universities and colleges who consider some kind of financial plan to help undergraduate honors students in low income families would receive much publicity and praise. I’m not implying that everyone should be able to go to college for free, just those who truly deserve it. If they have the drive and ambition to work hard all four years of high school, why not give them a free education?

There are plenty of students in school who take their own education for granted. Then, there are those who are driven and hardworking who would love to go to college, but can’t afford it. Just because they can’t afford an education, they aren’t allowed to go to college? That’s a really upsetting thought.

I praise and commend Harvard University on their decision to give a free education to those who truly deserve it. Finally, an institution that is willing to pay for those who have a dream of going to college, but cannot afford it! Hopefully, other universities will figure out a financial plan for their low-income students.

The dream of no student loans, debt or tuition has finally come true.

Thank you, Harvard University, for becoming the fairy godmother to those who didn’t think college was an option for them.