The 'Veritas' About Harvard
By Kevin Carey
What happens when the gods of high finance dump a gigantic pile of gold on the richest university in the world?
It sounds like the kind of hypothetical one might pose in a smoke-addled dorm room at 2 a.m. But it is, of course, what actually happened to Harvard University, along with a few of its elite competitors, over the last 20 years.
The answer is that the university reveals its true self. It shows the world what it cares about—and what it doesn't.
In 1990, Harvard had an endowment of about $4.7-billion. That was still a lot of money, about $7.7-billion in today's dollars. Only five other universities have that much money now. Over the next two decades the pile grew to colossal heights, $36.9-billion by mid-2008.
Harvard spent the money on many things. But not a dollar went to increasing the number of undergraduates it chose to bless with a Harvard education. In 1990 the university welcomed slightly more than 1,600 students to its freshman class. In 2008, $32-billion later, it enrolled slightly more than 1,600 freshmen.
That is remarkable stinginess. Harvard undergraduate degrees are immensely valuable, conferring a lifetime of social capital and prestige. The university receives many more highly qualified applicants than it chooses to admit. Because the existing class includes underqualified children of legacies, rich people, politicians, celebrities, and others who benefit from the questionable Ivy League admissions process, Harvard could presumably increase the size of its entering class by, say, 50 percent while improving the overall academic quality of the students it admits....more...
Tragic. Harvard and many other research Universities do not even see their students on the radar. (Hat tip to Yochanan Hashlishi)