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Meritocracy: How Harvard Currently Soaks the Rich...Such as NYC Public Schoolteachers
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This last Saturday night I took a red-eye flight to Boston accompanied by an all-important carry-on bag, containing some thirty pounds of signed nomination petitions for our Free Harvard/Fair Harvard campaign for the Harvard Board of Overseers.

With potentially major changes in the structure of American higher education hanging in the balance, I could not possibly trust Fedex or any other service for the safe Monday arrival of our petitions at the 17 Quincy Street Harvard offices, and hand-delivery seemed the only secure option. I’d originally planned my trip when huge winter storms had led to thousands of flight cancellations along the East Coast, so I separately booked both Saturday night and Sunday morning flights, with an eye towards possibly buying a last-minute third ticket to some other city along the Eastern Seaboard just in case snow blocked all incoming flights to Boston’s Logan Airport.

Fortunately, by the time our signature-gathering was complete and I boarded my JetBlue flight out of SFO, the Great Winter Storm of 2016 was merely a fading memory and both I and my precious cargo arrived without delay or incident.

Under normal circumstances I would have been loath to risk turning in our Harvard petitions on the last day available, Monday, February 1st, but our Overseer ballot qualification drive had been far more difficult and challenging than outside observers might expect. The number of signatures each of us required was hardly onerous—just 201 from among the 320,000 holders of Harvard degrees—but only physical signatures on special Harvard-printed nomination petitions were allowed, and for various reasons we had started our signature drive far later than I had originally planned. Excluding the delivery time of the blank petitions from Harvard itself, we had just a couple of weeks to locate our potential supporters, fedex them our nomination petitions, and receive their signed petitions in the Priority Mail return envelopes we provided. Naturally, most of the signatures arrived in the last couple of days, and late Saturday afternoon I was still nervously awaiting the day’s mail delivery just before leaving for the airport.

Despite all our concerns, we easily met our goals, and my heavy satchel on the flight to Boston Saturday night contained around 285 total signatures for most of our individual candidacies, providing a large safety margin over the required number. Virtually all our signers appeared absolutely legitimate, and unless the Harvard administrators choose to disqualify huge numbers of those alumni signatures on unreasonably trivial grounds, our slate will appear on the next Harvard Overseer ballot, with potentially major consequences. So we have now passed the first hurdle, though not without considerable nail-biting along the way.

 

Because I arrived in Cambridge very early Sunday morning and the Harvard offices did not open until Monday, I decided to spend the day trying to pad our numbers by doing some personal petitioning in Harvard Square and at various places around the university, having brought along some signs, large charts, and hand-outs to support such an effort.

During a full day of energetic petitioning, my success rate ran 100% among those who stopped in curiosity, asked questions, then declared themselves to be holders of Harvard degrees eligible to sign. Unfortunately, that total came to merely two individuals, as a cold New England Sunday deterred the busy and the sensible from dawdling in conversation with some obvious political crackpot sermonizing on Harvard’s vast wealth and absurdly promising to abolition Harvard tuition as a consequence.

A couple of pleasant young Crimson reporters also spent an hour or so reporting on my petitioning efforts and interviewing me, with a picture taken by their staff photographer and displayed on the front-page of their Monday newspaper accurately capturing the somewhat amusing street scene. Frankly, I doubt if even a single passer-by that day actually believed that my remarkably quixotic proposal had the slightest prospect of actual real-world success.

Petitioning near Harvard\
Petitioning near Harvard's Science Center. Credit: Harvard Crimson

Still, a much larger number of current Harvard students or casual visitors did stop, listen, and take away some of our materials, and of these individuals not one opposed our project, with the great majority being enthusiastic supporters. So the secondary goal of my petitioning—to gauge the political temperature in the Harvard community—proved much more encouraging and successful.

On Monday morning, I waited in my local hotel for the fedex deliveries of those petitions signed too late to reach me on Saturday in California, then took a taxi and lugged my heavy bag of petitions to the Harvard offices for delivery to the friendly staff located there, receiving a signed receipt in return.

I then picked up a couple of copies of the Crimson issue featuring my local petitioning efforts, as well as President Drew Faust’s sharp rebuttal to our proposals, and went to have a cup of coffee with John S. Rosenberg, editor of Harvard Magazine. Just a few days earlier, I had been stunned by the sudden appearance of his remarkably long (9,000 words), thorough, and even-handed article on our Free Harvard/Fair Harvard campaign, and I was very glad to have an opportunity to meet the author himself and explain some of my forthcoming plans for the coming months. Afterwards I took a taxi to WBUR, Boston’s local NPR station, which had invited me to do a long in-studio interview segment on our campaign, which I think went quite well.

ORDER IT NOW

The voter base for our Overseer campaign consists of active Harvard alumni, and these individuals receive Harvard Magazine, probably pay quite a bit of attention to stories that run in the Crimson, and are heavily concentrated in the Greater Boston area, often listening to the local NPR station. Taken together, these sorts of media outlets are exactly the ones that help shape the perceptions of our potential voters, and so far I think their coverage of our efforts has been exemplary—probing, sometimes tough, but generally extremely fair. I suspect there will be many, many more stories about our campaign and the issues we are raising before the Overseer election results are finally announced in June.

 

What, then, of the issues themselves? For me, one considerable surprise has been just how much the Harvard Administration opposition to our campaign has focused on the “Free Harvard” issue, with the university spokesmen and its top officials repeatedly claiming that our proposal to abolish college tuition is completely unnecessary since Harvard already provides very generous financial aid, and also financially impossible or at least very burdensome and difficult.

In the original New York Times article, Harvard Spokesman Jeff Neal had claimed that legal restrictions on Harvard endowment funds made our proposal a non-starter. Former Senior Fellow of the Harvard Corporation Robert Reischauer made a similar point in an NYT letter to the editor. In fact, the Harvard Crimson article featuring President Drew Faust’s response was actually entitled “Faust Condemns Free Tuition Proposal from Outside Overseers Ticket” and my WBUR interviewer cited further statements from Neal along similar lines.

But despite the weighty credentials and elite credibility of these individuals, I believe the facts are very much on the other side.

Let us first consider whether our proposal is even legally and financially possible. As I have repeatedly pointed out, the university’s overall investment income averages some twenty-five times the size of its net college tuition revenue, and none of these Harvard officials have ever disputed my claim. The sheer magnitude of this disparity is effectively illustrated in a simple chart I have widely distributed:

Now it is perfectly true that a large portion of the Harvard endowment is bound by various donor restrictions, and according to the NPR interviewer, Neal claimed the figure was 70%, which does not seem unreasonable to me. However, that still leaves 30% of the endowment income as completely unrestricted, and since an allocation of merely 4% would be sufficient to abolish tuition, I cannot see any resulting difficulty. Furthermore, roughly half of all new Harvard donations each year are completely unrestricted, and this sum alone would easily be enough to swamp the costs now covered by tuition. I simply cannot understand the argument that abolishing tuition is financially or legally difficult, let alone impossible.

Meanwhile, what of Harvard’s other argument, that the current system serves the cause of financial equity by only soaking the wealthy while protecting the less affluent? It is endlessly claimed that today’s exceptionally complex system of financial aid means that only millionaires and such actually pay the stated costs of over $60,000 per year, while less affluent families are completely insulated from any resulting financial hardship.

To some extent this is certainly true. Families with incomes of $65,000 and below may send their children to Harvard completely free of charge, though I personally wonder just how many such American families are actually aware of this, rather than casually hear about a Harvard list-price of $60,000 per year and never even consider applying. But what about families with somewhat higher incomes? Is Harvard’s very complex—and totally secret—financial aid formula really as well-designed and equitable as its top university officials endlessly proclaim?

As it happens, Harvard provides a convenient “Net Price Calculator” on its website, useful for determining the cost of attendance based on one’s financial situation (though an NYT columnist has harshly criticized Harvard for using various software tricks to block any “comparison shopping” against its competitors).

Therefore, let us consider a very simple case, namely that of married couple, both longtime New York City public schoolteachers, having one child who is smart and talented enough to have been accepted at Harvard College.

Now NYC is an extremely expensive place to live, with the local cost-of-living perhaps almost twice the national average. The local teachers unions are strong and ensure a solid income for their members, with a base salary of at least nearly $93,000 for career teachers of 22 years service or longer; that may sound like a lot, but is more like $45,000 or $50,000 per year in a less expensive part of the country. Therefore, a pair of such public school teachers has a combined salary income of roughly $185,000 per year. Let us further suppose that over many years of diligent effort they have managed to accumulate (non-retirement) cash savings and investments of $200,000, which generates annual investment income of an extra $5,000 per year. I would hardly regard such a middle-class couple as being part of America’s wealthy elite.

Harvard apparently disagrees. Plugging these exact numbers into the Harvard Net Price Calculator indicates that those NYC public schoolteachers would be expected to provide a parental contribution of $44,000 per year, or $176,000 over the four years. So if they may choose to send their son or daughter to Harvard just so long as they are willing to spend almost their entire life savings for that privilege. Is this financially equitable?

What about a somewhat different case. Suppose over the years that same couple of NYC school teachers had encountered serious financial problems or unexpected expenses, perhaps medical bills beyond their insurance coverage, and as a result had no significant personal savings when their son received his Golden Ticket of an acceptance letter to Harvard. Surely, under such circumstances, Harvard would cover all the costs.

Apparently not. If we plug zero savings and zero investment income into the handy Harvard Calculator, we find the university still requires such parents to contribute $135,000 over four years. Presumably, it expects them to go massively into personal debt or sell their kidneys or (more realistically) take out a second mortgage on their home or apartment. Obviously, the most likely scenario is that they decide that a Harvard education is totally unaffordable to the non-wealthy, and instead send their son or daughter to a local state college. Meanwhile, Harvard remains totally mystified why such a large fraction of its current students come from wealthy families.

Now in the cases we examined, a total four-year parental contribution of $176,000 or even $135,000 surely seems like a huge amount of money to that family of NYC public school teachers. But how much do such sums matter to Harvard itself?

Well, over the last few years, Harvard’s endowment investment income—excluding all new donations—has averaged about $3.2 billion per year. That’s $9 million per day, or $365,000 per hour. So the insurmountable obstacle of $135,000 it would demand from that family of NYC public school teachers in difficult financial circumstances represents roughly 22 minutes of Harvard’s average ordinary investment income. 22 minutes of investment income. “Let them eat cake”…

It’s also important to remember that while those NYC public school teachers pay a huge variety of often heavy taxes—federal income taxes, social security taxes, state taxes, city taxes, sales taxes, property taxes—-Harvard University is totally tax-exempt, which is one reason its annual investment income is so extremely large. Years ago, I wrote an article pointing out that Harvard had actually become one of the world’s largest hedge-funds, with some sort of small school or college or something attached off to one side for tax reasons. Right now, it looks like Harvard and its peers will remain tax-exempt indefinitely. But I really think it’s quite unseemly for a tax-exempt hedge-fund to continue gouging families of public school teachers of their life-savings, while simultaneously denigrating them as members of America’s wealthy elite.

I suspect that in a few months time, the vast majority of the Harvard alumni who vote in the Overseers election will agree with me. And soon thereafter Harvard will indeed become free.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Harvard, Meritocracy 
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  1. Thanks for all your work on these issues, Ron Unz…

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  2. It is telling that your example of a “middle class” family your free tuition proposal would benefit is a family with only one child and an annual income that is almost four times the median family income in the United States.

    Moreover, long time upper middle class residents of NYC like this would, unless they are grossly irresponsible with money (1) have gigantic real estate net worth, likely owning a house worth a $750,000-$2 million more than they paid for or (2) have a rent controlled or stabilized apartment whose economic value could easily be $500,000 or more (3) have pensions with actuarial values of more than a million each. So yeah, it is fair to ask people who are, with any honest accounting, likely multimillionaires, to pay $135,000 or $176,000 over four years to send their kid to Harvard. Indeed, nearly every such couple would be more than happy to pay this amount.

    Also, two teachers are only working 7 hour days 9 months out of the year could easily work longer hours. This need not even be a second job. Most public schools pay some teachers additional money to (1) coach sports teams (2) come in early to supervise free breakfast programs (3) teach summer school (4) run scoreboards. And your senior teachers would be first in line to get any of these jobs if they wanted them.

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    • Replies: @TomSchmidt
    They appear rich, and you're correct that they probably have more in pension money than most Americans. Assume, following Mr. Unz's example, that they as a couple make 15.5k a month. At that level of joint income living in NYC, the marginal tax rate on each additional dollar earned is about 50%, radically disincentivizing either person working more (7.65 FICA, 31% Federal [including things like reduction of personal exemptions], 6.85% NY State, 4.5% NYC income tax).

    I would guess that 30% of their income goes to the various taxes listed above. This leaves our couple with about 10.5k monthly after tax. At $1400 a sf, a 1200sf apartment will cost them $1,680,000. A 20% down payment, requiring $336,000, will give them a share loan or mortgage of $1344000. At 4% interest, the monthly gross interest payment will be 53,760 divided by 12, or about $4500. I'd guess that about 35% of it is rebated from income taxes, leaving about $2900 in net interest payments monthly.

    Co-op apartments include a maintenance fee that includes property taxes and the expenses of running the building, and occasionally mortgage interest. Here we have an apartment selling for 949k with maintenance of $1741 a month. Scaling up in price to match our apartment, we get about $3000 a month maintenance, with maybe only $100 saved in income taxes, for a net cost of $2900. (Property tax isn't deductible under AMT). Remaining to cover living expenses, savings, high school tuition at a private school, for three people, is $4700 a month. To amortize their mortgage or share loan, they'll need to contribute some portion of that $4700.

    In short, they ain't starving, but they ain't rich, either.
  3. Anonymous says:     Show CommentNext New Comment

    Thank you Ron! And congratulations on a job well done. You earned our respect in a big way. Let the facts speak for the long suffering families at Harvard, and the Ivy League schools. We are so grateful for your key efforts, and your independent and productive mind. As a former Ivy Alumni club President, and Harvard Ex. Ed. Alumni and the Son of a female Ivy Alumni club President and an Alumni Award of Merit winner – our family thanks you and welcomes your role.

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  4. Mr. Unz,

    By asking such tuiton prices Harfund disperses smart students to other universities.
    When that university is now percieved to be money, incrowdy-elitist it is not necessarily seen as academic-elitist and people can waive Harfund by simply admitting to (daddy’s) lack of money.

    When Harfund also becomes tuiton-free, less smart students at other universities have less chance to study with and learn from the superbright they might else encounter at underendowed universities.

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  5. More power to you and your campaign. My politics are right of centre, but I was appalled when the British (Conservative) government introduced tuition fees for tertiary education; just as appalled as I was when the Labour government did its best to abolish the grammar schools, which provided an academically inclined education to intelligent children from any background, free of charge at the point of delivery. As a result of the second measure, social mobility has been severely cramped; as a result of the first, young people start out in life with crippling debt. Combined with this has been the conversion of vocational, polytechnic colleges and the like into fake ‘universities’ and the proliferation of mainly worthless courses in such subjects as media studies and women’s rights.

    The universities, at one time, were the flower of the West. Now they function as indoctrination centres, gouging their students and giving them back comparatively little in the way of Enlightenment thinking and culture, or indeed workplace skills.

    BTW, your comments about Harvard’s financial activities remind me of Porsche, which I have seen described as a hedge fund with a small car-maker attached!

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  6. Why does Harvard even bother with undergraduates? Why not become an entirely postgraduate institution?

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  7. I’m not sure why Harvard should be free.

    There are thousands of parents willing to pay the tuition for their kids at Harvard and there are thousands more who would be willing to pay this tuition had their kids been accepted.

    If someone is truly destitute but was admitted there are scholarships and loans available.

    Ultimately, the laws of supply and demand should not be tampered with.

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    • Replies: @TomSchmidt
    Ultimately, the laws of supply and demand should not be tampered with.
    Now that they have, what do you propose to do?

    Remember, economics is a tool. Worship of it constitutes idolatry.
  8. @Lot
    It is telling that your example of a "middle class" family your free tuition proposal would benefit is a family with only one child and an annual income that is almost four times the median family income in the United States.

    Moreover, long time upper middle class residents of NYC like this would, unless they are grossly irresponsible with money (1) have gigantic real estate net worth, likely owning a house worth a $750,000-$2 million more than they paid for or (2) have a rent controlled or stabilized apartment whose economic value could easily be $500,000 or more (3) have pensions with actuarial values of more than a million each. So yeah, it is fair to ask people who are, with any honest accounting, likely multimillionaires, to pay $135,000 or $176,000 over four years to send their kid to Harvard. Indeed, nearly every such couple would be more than happy to pay this amount.

    Also, two teachers are only working 7 hour days 9 months out of the year could easily work longer hours. This need not even be a second job. Most public schools pay some teachers additional money to (1) coach sports teams (2) come in early to supervise free breakfast programs (3) teach summer school (4) run scoreboards. And your senior teachers would be first in line to get any of these jobs if they wanted them.

    They appear rich, and you’re correct that they probably have more in pension money than most Americans. Assume, following Mr. Unz’s example, that they as a couple make 15.5k a month. At that level of joint income living in NYC, the marginal tax rate on each additional dollar earned is about 50%, radically disincentivizing either person working more (7.65 FICA, 31% Federal [including things like reduction of personal exemptions], 6.85% NY State, 4.5% NYC income tax).

    I would guess that 30% of their income goes to the various taxes listed above. This leaves our couple with about 10.5k monthly after tax. At $1400 a sf, a 1200sf apartment will cost them $1,680,000. A 20% down payment, requiring $336,000, will give them a share loan or mortgage of $1344000. At 4% interest, the monthly gross interest payment will be 53,760 divided by 12, or about $4500. I’d guess that about 35% of it is rebated from income taxes, leaving about $2900 in net interest payments monthly.

    Co-op apartments include a maintenance fee that includes property taxes and the expenses of running the building, and occasionally mortgage interest. Here we have an apartment selling for 949k with maintenance of $1741 a month. Scaling up in price to match our apartment, we get about $3000 a month maintenance, with maybe only $100 saved in income taxes, for a net cost of $2900. (Property tax isn’t deductible under AMT). Remaining to cover living expenses, savings, high school tuition at a private school, for three people, is $4700 a month. To amortize their mortgage or share loan, they’ll need to contribute some portion of that $4700.

    In short, they ain’t starving, but they ain’t rich, either.

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    • Replies: @bomag
    Let us not lose sight of the fact that at some level a college degree is an economic investment in the future that should pay some dividends. (I promise not to worship economics to the point of idolatry.) The kids can pay their parents back directly, or pay for their own kid's education.
    , @Lot

    At $1400 a sf, a 1200sf apartment will cost them $1,680,000.
     
    Far more likely, since they are long-term NYC teachers, they bought an apartment about 20 years ago. Prices have more than tripled in that period (3.6 to be exact), so they'd have about a $1.1 million apartment with maybe $150,000 left on the mortgage.

    A fair number of long-term NYC teachers will also have parents with similar appreciated property.

  9. @Sherman
    I'm not sure why Harvard should be free.

    There are thousands of parents willing to pay the tuition for their kids at Harvard and there are thousands more who would be willing to pay this tuition had their kids been accepted.

    If someone is truly destitute but was admitted there are scholarships and loans available.

    Ultimately, the laws of supply and demand should not be tampered with.

    Ultimately, the laws of supply and demand should not be tampered with.
    Now that they have, what do you propose to do?

    Remember, economics is a tool. Worship of it constitutes idolatry.

    Read More
  10. Anonymous says: • Website     Show CommentNext New Comment

    You make a good case here.

    At the very least, you make it clear that the ‘free tuition’ number of 65K is far too low.

    Should be something like 125K, and then it should only gradually go up to full tuition at some much larger number (250/500K?)

    But, free for everyone is a good place to start.

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    • Agree: Travis
    • Replies: @Lot

    At the very least, you make it clear that the ‘free tuition’ number of 65K is far too low.
     
    I believe 65K is the free tuition + free housing/health insurance/meal plan level, and just free tuition goes up higher.

    Also you get credit for additional children, so the 65K number Unz used was for one child families.
  11. Impressive work!

    You will be remembered as historical figure if succeed. This might trigger top-down revolution in educational system, especially for elite ivies. And world wide elite education system might follow.

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  12. By keeping Harvard expensive, it ensures a significant portion of the student body, “the right people” attend. Those that can afford Harvard, are the elite. Therefore, the children of the people that currently run the country, are more likely run the country in the future.

    Other than times of true revolution, how is this any different in any other society at any other time? ‘Twas ever thus.

    It is Harvard’s Raison de’etre. Otherwise it would just be another University of Michigan.

    Whether you effect any change at Harvard itself is insignificant compared to the fact that after reading the Crimson, some of the most influential and well placed people in the world, Harvard alumni, are going to set down the NYT or turn off NPR for a moment and read Sailer on the Unz Review for the first time. I thank you Mr. Unz for the good work.

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    I came here via Sailer many years ago. Unz has replaced all our newspapers bar one and I live in Australia. I have the forlorn hope that Unz facts and opinions will open peoples minds, so I hope Muse is right. Good on you , Ron.
  13. Will anyone ever look at Congressional legislation mandating that colleges spend a specific % of the interest earned on their endowment for education-related expenses, or lose their tax exemptions? Where is Henry the VIIIth when you need him?

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  14. Yes, an absolutely crackpot scheme: welfare for the rich, plus the children of social climbers.

    Everyone attending Harvard should pay the full fees with the exception of a small minority who win full-fee scholarships for the exceptionally talented.

    The function of such scholarships would be not to provide the non-elite with access to the elite, but to provide the elite with the understanding that they are not only of the same species as the non-elite, but that they are, for the most part, not even the most talented members of that species.

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  15. Rectifying his age; history will remember.

    I do wish you would write more. Your sentences always have great balance, and I can tell you enjoy recounting the trip. I think you should go to Cuba and tell the story of your impressions. My doctor, in his sixties, just got back with a contingent from Columbia University, and I’ve never seen him so lit up. He actually said every single one of his group agreed that is was a “transformative experience” (generally not his temper of word). Mind you he has always been more of a conservative than not, and he could not help but be excited to tell me “Castro did something right.” Apparently the poor people are happy, there is zero violent crime and no guns, and most of all no Americanization whatsoever, so the city is only old and very pretty. Anyways I think you should, and that you deserve a vacation.

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  16. Anonymous says:     Show CommentNext New Comment

    Fascinating article. Original concept.
    The 1% do not like the hoi polloi to have access to the same material indicators of wealth and privilege as they do. A Harvard degree certainly falls into that category.
    I’m not sure what their thinking is but I’ve seen this behavior on parade frequently.
    Perhaps they feel that then they would be just like everyone else which, of course, is untrue. Most of the rest of humanity are decent, caring human beings.
    A free university would dilute the Harvard brand and allow all sorts of people who may not buy into the myth that only rich are entitled to rule, access.
    That being said, I believe it was either Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn that said, (loosely quoted) that the pathway to unenlightened thought is a ‘good education.’

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  17. Anonymous says:     Show CommentNext New Comment
    @Muse
    By keeping Harvard expensive, it ensures a significant portion of the student body, "the right people" attend. Those that can afford Harvard, are the elite. Therefore, the children of the people that currently run the country, are more likely run the country in the future.

    Other than times of true revolution, how is this any different in any other society at any other time? 'Twas ever thus.

    It is Harvard's Raison de'etre. Otherwise it would just be another University of Michigan.

    Whether you effect any change at Harvard itself is insignificant compared to the fact that after reading the Crimson, some of the most influential and well placed people in the world, Harvard alumni, are going to set down the NYT or turn off NPR for a moment and read Sailer on the Unz Review for the first time. I thank you Mr. Unz for the good work.

    I came here via Sailer many years ago. Unz has replaced all our newspapers bar one and I live in Australia. I have the forlorn hope that Unz facts and opinions will open peoples minds, so I hope Muse is right. Good on you , Ron.

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  18. Go get some, Ron! If you’re wondering whether your judgment that the purpose of the American university has been, well, uh, compromised . . . you’re right.

    At our local less selective Podunk Tech, we routinely make cracks about what a realistic mission statement might look like. Regional university-branded sports entertainment complex. Yep. Government-funded day care center for young adults; jobs program for the scions of local worthies who swap big-ticket donations for no-show positions for their kids; political patronage-and-kickback machine, etc. Somewhere down the list there’s education and scholarship, well, sort of.

    FWIW-our endowment is a tiny fraction of Harvard’s, but there are whispered questions about whether it does any good at all, and why many of its assets are squirreled away in off-shore accounts.

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  19. Free tuition for all means Harvard can’t use financial aid to socially engineer its admissions. Sure, they have a lot of other tools for doing so, but you have to start somewhere.

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  20. Anonymous says:     Show CommentNext New Comment

    I commend your efforts here Unz and hope you don’t back down. Harvard and the rest of the IVY leagues is just the British Aristocracy system rehashed for America. Where a select number of good jobs are sent to those who have been vetted by the system (largely made up of family members of the elite) to ensure that only those who support the status quo get in.

    I would add another qualifier to make the system fairer is to eliminate a families prior admittance to the collage as something that can be factored into admittance. Meaning if your dad went to Harvard it would not factor in you admittance chances. That way the rich could not buy their way into Harvard as is happening now with so much donor money going into the system.

    Any feedback on the race based initiative aspects?

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  21. OP, can’t agree with you. The truth is the reverse.

    All state universities should adopt the Harvard system: develop a large endowment, end coercive tax funding, and charge a large tuition (if they must) for the rich while giving the truly smart a free ride.

    This as opposed to the insane and redundant Sanders and Obama plans.

    BTW, the real old-line US elite goes to certain local colleges/universities to continue to their networking: New College, St. John’s, Oberlin, St Lawrence, Honors colleges such as St Petersburg College (within open admission/lowest tuition–basically free), Colorado, COA. Or they discreetly get a degree by examination from U London or Charter Oak, or attend a foreign University to leverage their interests such as American University of Rome or (increasingly) colleges in China and Latin America.

    Because Harvard is for the help.

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  22. @TomSchmidt
    They appear rich, and you're correct that they probably have more in pension money than most Americans. Assume, following Mr. Unz's example, that they as a couple make 15.5k a month. At that level of joint income living in NYC, the marginal tax rate on each additional dollar earned is about 50%, radically disincentivizing either person working more (7.65 FICA, 31% Federal [including things like reduction of personal exemptions], 6.85% NY State, 4.5% NYC income tax).

    I would guess that 30% of their income goes to the various taxes listed above. This leaves our couple with about 10.5k monthly after tax. At $1400 a sf, a 1200sf apartment will cost them $1,680,000. A 20% down payment, requiring $336,000, will give them a share loan or mortgage of $1344000. At 4% interest, the monthly gross interest payment will be 53,760 divided by 12, or about $4500. I'd guess that about 35% of it is rebated from income taxes, leaving about $2900 in net interest payments monthly.

    Co-op apartments include a maintenance fee that includes property taxes and the expenses of running the building, and occasionally mortgage interest. Here we have an apartment selling for 949k with maintenance of $1741 a month. Scaling up in price to match our apartment, we get about $3000 a month maintenance, with maybe only $100 saved in income taxes, for a net cost of $2900. (Property tax isn't deductible under AMT). Remaining to cover living expenses, savings, high school tuition at a private school, for three people, is $4700 a month. To amortize their mortgage or share loan, they'll need to contribute some portion of that $4700.

    In short, they ain't starving, but they ain't rich, either.

    Let us not lose sight of the fact that at some level a college degree is an economic investment in the future that should pay some dividends. (I promise not to worship economics to the point of idolatry.) The kids can pay their parents back directly, or pay for their own kid’s education.

    Read More
  23. I wonder about that “investment in the future” aspect. If you can get your BA for $25K, I’d say it definitely is an economically valuable arrangement. On the other hand, I know some schools where the total freight is about 65K a year, with some parents paying the full amount. Assume that a kid bright enough to go to college could earn 35K a year, and that’s $260K post-tax, and 140K pre-tax spent for four years. You would need a LOT of years working as a young person to get that sort of nest egg from your own efforts; the 360K could buy you a house in most of the country, and give you a nice grubstake towards a business.

    If the degree creates market differentiation, it should pay off; things like Petroleum Engineering used to do this. It now seems that only MASTERS education can do this, however. It pains me to see what the burden loaded on our younger generations is.

    Still, paying it forward, as you suggest, is the best idea.

    Read More
  24. @TomSchmidt
    They appear rich, and you're correct that they probably have more in pension money than most Americans. Assume, following Mr. Unz's example, that they as a couple make 15.5k a month. At that level of joint income living in NYC, the marginal tax rate on each additional dollar earned is about 50%, radically disincentivizing either person working more (7.65 FICA, 31% Federal [including things like reduction of personal exemptions], 6.85% NY State, 4.5% NYC income tax).

    I would guess that 30% of their income goes to the various taxes listed above. This leaves our couple with about 10.5k monthly after tax. At $1400 a sf, a 1200sf apartment will cost them $1,680,000. A 20% down payment, requiring $336,000, will give them a share loan or mortgage of $1344000. At 4% interest, the monthly gross interest payment will be 53,760 divided by 12, or about $4500. I'd guess that about 35% of it is rebated from income taxes, leaving about $2900 in net interest payments monthly.

    Co-op apartments include a maintenance fee that includes property taxes and the expenses of running the building, and occasionally mortgage interest. Here we have an apartment selling for 949k with maintenance of $1741 a month. Scaling up in price to match our apartment, we get about $3000 a month maintenance, with maybe only $100 saved in income taxes, for a net cost of $2900. (Property tax isn't deductible under AMT). Remaining to cover living expenses, savings, high school tuition at a private school, for three people, is $4700 a month. To amortize their mortgage or share loan, they'll need to contribute some portion of that $4700.

    In short, they ain't starving, but they ain't rich, either.

    At $1400 a sf, a 1200sf apartment will cost them $1,680,000.

    Far more likely, since they are long-term NYC teachers, they bought an apartment about 20 years ago. Prices have more than tripled in that period (3.6 to be exact), so they’d have about a $1.1 million apartment with maybe $150,000 left on the mortgage.

    A fair number of long-term NYC teachers will also have parents with similar appreciated property.

    Read More
    • Replies: @TomSchmidt
    Plausible. Cross-referencing two links at this search result, we get an average price per SF of $328 in 1997, and about $1183 in 2014, for your increase of 3.6 times.

    To buy that 1200sf apartment in 1997, they would have needed 400k, or 80k down. Assuming they were 30 when they bought it, that not an insurmountable amount to have saved for a down payment. The average NYC teacher salary in 1997, according to this link, was 33,500. Let's say it was 36k for our two capable-of-spawning-a-Harvard-grad parents, or a convenient 6k a month. At 33% of income spent on housing, they'd have 2k a month. Assuming $800 a month maintenance, that leaves $1200 to spend on principal and interest. If they had a share loan at 6%, then a 30-year mortgage would cost $6 monthly per thousand in debt. That indicates that the maximum mortgage they could pay would be on $200,000 in debt. Not enough to pay for the lodging.

    Now, I did know a college professor with a husband who combined made about 100k in the early 2010's. They lived in Manhattan with their three sons, In a 1br apartment, with the three sons sharing the bedroom and the parents sleeping in the living room. So it would be possible to do this. And the parents might be asset-wealthy but cash flow very poor. If they left NYC and moved to Texas, they could live off the inflated value of the real estate. But in NYC, they are hardly wealthy.
    , @hhsiii
    Where did they get the downpayment? Unz is right, quibbling over the hypothetical net worth of school teachers in NYC is missing the point entirely. He's only using them to show that elite opinion is being manipulated to suggest these folks are the upper class sucking off the taxpayer teat, when really it's Harvard et al.
  25. @Anonymous
    You make a good case here.

    At the very least, you make it clear that the 'free tuition' number of 65K is far too low.

    Should be something like 125K, and then it should only gradually go up to full tuition at some much larger number (250/500K?)

    But, free for everyone is a good place to start.

    At the very least, you make it clear that the ‘free tuition’ number of 65K is far too low.

    I believe 65K is the free tuition + free housing/health insurance/meal plan level, and just free tuition goes up higher.

    Also you get credit for additional children, so the 65K number Unz used was for one child families.

    Read More
  26. Certainly Harvard should reduce their high tuition. but I see little reason why students should also get free room and board while attending college.

    Harvard should also increase the size of the school. Since the typical Harvard administrator , board member and professor is for letting more and more people into the United States. Our population has increased 50% over the last 40 years.
    Thus Harvard should increase their enrollment by 50% to accommodate the massive population growth (which is partly due to the policies adopted by our Ivey League politicians who have long advocated for more immigration)

    Read More
  27. @Lot

    At $1400 a sf, a 1200sf apartment will cost them $1,680,000.
     
    Far more likely, since they are long-term NYC teachers, they bought an apartment about 20 years ago. Prices have more than tripled in that period (3.6 to be exact), so they'd have about a $1.1 million apartment with maybe $150,000 left on the mortgage.

    A fair number of long-term NYC teachers will also have parents with similar appreciated property.

    Plausible. Cross-referencing two links at this search result, we get an average price per SF of $328 in 1997, and about $1183 in 2014, for your increase of 3.6 times.

    To buy that 1200sf apartment in 1997, they would have needed 400k, or 80k down. Assuming they were 30 when they bought it, that not an insurmountable amount to have saved for a down payment. The average NYC teacher salary in 1997, according to this link, was 33,500. Let’s say it was 36k for our two capable-of-spawning-a-Harvard-grad parents, or a convenient 6k a month. At 33% of income spent on housing, they’d have 2k a month. Assuming $800 a month maintenance, that leaves $1200 to spend on principal and interest. If they had a share loan at 6%, then a 30-year mortgage would cost $6 monthly per thousand in debt. That indicates that the maximum mortgage they could pay would be on $200,000 in debt. Not enough to pay for the lodging.

    Now, I did know a college professor with a husband who combined made about 100k in the early 2010′s. They lived in Manhattan with their three sons, In a 1br apartment, with the three sons sharing the bedroom and the parents sleeping in the living room. So it would be possible to do this. And the parents might be asset-wealthy but cash flow very poor. If they left NYC and moved to Texas, they could live off the inflated value of the real estate. But in NYC, they are hardly wealthy.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Lot

    To buy that 1200sf apartment in 1997, they would have needed 400k, or 80k down.
     
    You could obtain a mortgage in 1997 if you had a stable job with 5% down.
  28. Anonymous says:     Show CommentNext New Comment

    I think if Bernie gets in The White House it’ll make this Unz Free Harvard/Fair Harvard movement moot.

    Read More
  29. I have an idea. Why not make the free tuition apply only to useful studies? Stuff like medicine and engineering. If people want hobby degrees (Women’s Studies, etc) they pay full price.

    Ideally people doing hobby degrees should actually pay a premium on top of the tuition fees, to help subsidise the free tuition for the useful degrees.

    Read More
  30. When oh when will we be spared policy proposals built on the outmoded fantasy on the selfless public servant who trades a big salary for the security of a guaranteed paycheck and pension?

    Maybe a better question is to ask yourselves how many working adults in what’s left of the private sector are even pulling down 93K? Last time I looked, most working stiffs here in Gotham not pulling an oar for the city/state/Feds don’t get extra money to, y’know, make their salaries comparable with the rest of the country.

    The truth is that decades of that Public Sector slowly choking the life of the Private one have left us only with a Private Sector indistinguishable from government – a dwindling handful of gigantic, too-big-to-fail-until-they-do mega-conglomerates. But the owner-operated small to mid-sized business that economically put this country on the map is going, going, gone.

    In an economy in which 90% of everyone working for a private employer would kick up their heels at the chance to perform rote functions for the gummint, however monotonously, for a life free of the terrors endemic to our Global Economy – mergers, recessions, layoffs and other austerity measures, “we’ve moved your job offshore to the Phillipines!”, and ancillary delights like “COBRA continuation health coverage” – the idea of beginning any pitch for economic reform by asking the reader to cry bitter tears over The Long-suffering Underpaid Public Servant is starting out with one foot firmly planted in Fantasy-land.

    Read More
  31. […] “Meritocracy: How Harvard Currently Soaks the Rich…Such as NYC Public Schoolteachers” by Ron Unz […]

    Read More
  32. Anon says:     Show CommentNext New Comment

    Harvard’s not going to do it. The stock market is crashing badly right now, and Harvard’s endowment is taking a hit. I don’t see them ever doing it, because Harvard officials will always have the safety of that endowment in mind.

    Read More
  33. didnt go to harvard. application refused. 9 yrs in 3rd grade apparently a negative.

    but

    i do have a suggestion

    dumping dershowitz should free up enough money for tuition for 3 human type students meaning not dershowitz knuckle draggers.

    Read More
  34. @TomSchmidt
    Plausible. Cross-referencing two links at this search result, we get an average price per SF of $328 in 1997, and about $1183 in 2014, for your increase of 3.6 times.

    To buy that 1200sf apartment in 1997, they would have needed 400k, or 80k down. Assuming they were 30 when they bought it, that not an insurmountable amount to have saved for a down payment. The average NYC teacher salary in 1997, according to this link, was 33,500. Let's say it was 36k for our two capable-of-spawning-a-Harvard-grad parents, or a convenient 6k a month. At 33% of income spent on housing, they'd have 2k a month. Assuming $800 a month maintenance, that leaves $1200 to spend on principal and interest. If they had a share loan at 6%, then a 30-year mortgage would cost $6 monthly per thousand in debt. That indicates that the maximum mortgage they could pay would be on $200,000 in debt. Not enough to pay for the lodging.

    Now, I did know a college professor with a husband who combined made about 100k in the early 2010's. They lived in Manhattan with their three sons, In a 1br apartment, with the three sons sharing the bedroom and the parents sleeping in the living room. So it would be possible to do this. And the parents might be asset-wealthy but cash flow very poor. If they left NYC and moved to Texas, they could live off the inflated value of the real estate. But in NYC, they are hardly wealthy.

    To buy that 1200sf apartment in 1997, they would have needed 400k, or 80k down.

    You could obtain a mortgage in 1997 if you had a stable job with 5% down.

    Read More
    • Replies: @TomSchmidt
    At 5% down on a 400k place, they would have had to support a mortgage/share loan of 380k, in addition to monthly maintenance which we have estimated at $800 monthly. At 6% interest, that loan comes to 2280 monthly. Add in the maintenance and we have $3080 monthly for housing. On 6k pretax for income, based off averages. Even NINJA loans didn't go to people spending 51.3% of income on housing. At a more reasonable 33% of income, their $3080 would have required $112,000 in annual income, or 9333 monthly.

    It's a stretch, but they might even have pulled it off 20 years ago. Today? Not a chance.
  35. @Lot

    To buy that 1200sf apartment in 1997, they would have needed 400k, or 80k down.
     
    You could obtain a mortgage in 1997 if you had a stable job with 5% down.

    At 5% down on a 400k place, they would have had to support a mortgage/share loan of 380k, in addition to monthly maintenance which we have estimated at $800 monthly. At 6% interest, that loan comes to 2280 monthly. Add in the maintenance and we have $3080 monthly for housing. On 6k pretax for income, based off averages. Even NINJA loans didn’t go to people spending 51.3% of income on housing. At a more reasonable 33% of income, their $3080 would have required $112,000 in annual income, or 9333 monthly.

    It’s a stretch, but they might even have pulled it off 20 years ago. Today? Not a chance.

    Read More
  36. @Lot

    At $1400 a sf, a 1200sf apartment will cost them $1,680,000.
     
    Far more likely, since they are long-term NYC teachers, they bought an apartment about 20 years ago. Prices have more than tripled in that period (3.6 to be exact), so they'd have about a $1.1 million apartment with maybe $150,000 left on the mortgage.

    A fair number of long-term NYC teachers will also have parents with similar appreciated property.

    Where did they get the downpayment? Unz is right, quibbling over the hypothetical net worth of school teachers in NYC is missing the point entirely. He’s only using them to show that elite opinion is being manipulated to suggest these folks are the upper class sucking off the taxpayer teat, when really it’s Harvard et al.

    Read More
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