Should Harvard stop charging tuition?
Political activist Ralph Nader decided to run for president on the premise of being a consumer advocate and one who fights against keeping America from turning into an exclusive meritocracy.
It’s also why he wants his former school to do away with tuition.
Nader graduated from the Harvard Law School in 1958 with a bachelor of law and thinks that the school isn’t doing enough to keep costs for student low.
Along with other activists, Nader is calling for Harvard University to use its endowment to eradicate tuition fees.
Boasting the largest endowment in the nation, Harvard has a fund of $36 billion and raised over $1 billion in 2015.
Simply put, Harvard isn’t hurting for dollars.
Tapping into that income will not harm Harvard’s ability to fund other projects, like new buildings and paying for other fees, but it may set a precedent that other schools will be forced to follow.
Because Harvard’s endowment is so big–again, largest in the nation–it has privilege that other schools may not harness.
Some in Congress are at least exploring the idea of potentially forcing some schools to use money from endowments towards tuition fees. The issue this presents is that many who decide to give to a school’s endowment usually do so for a certain cause or matter.
Former Harvard Business School student John Paulson gave the Harvard University School of Engineering and Applied Science a gift of $400 million in 2015. That money may be designated strictly for use at that school.
It’s also worth noting that these endowments are tax exempt and the policy may allow for schools like Harvard to run up the score.
Removing that exemption may not hurt Harvard but it would damage other schools. For example, Grambling State University’s (GSU) endowment is only $4.5 million and the school would be severely hurt if that money was taxed. GSU also has an alumni base that isn’t as financially strong as Harvard.
For the sake of rich and powerful schools, doing away with tuition fees would certainly help its students. But that rule should likely only apply to schools that can afford it, which means that no law or policy may be created to force schools to do so.