• U.S.

Education: Universities Must be Beggars

2 minute read

When Harvard’s President Nathan Marsh Pusey announced the launching of one of the most ambitious fund-raising campaigns ($75 million to $100 million for the undergraduate college alone) in educational history, he knew that he would have to answer one inevitable question: Why does Harvard, with the biggest university endowment in the U.S., need so much new money? Pusey’s reply, which is now going out to alumni, is more than just a plea for Harvard. It is a dramatic description of the ever-expanding needs and challenges of U.S. higher education.

Like his colleagues everywhere, says Pusey, “the Harvard professor is a poorer man today than he has been for generations.” The college must not only raise salaries and restore the professor’s purchasing power; it has the duty to increase its scholarship programs and to build new houses for its growing student body. But a major reason for Harvard’s need is the phenomenal growth of knowledge itself. Both the chemistry and astronomy departments, for instance, have outgrown their facilities. The young department of social relations never had proper accommodations in the first place. There must also be funds for the continual “creation of new professorships to keep pace with the advance of knowledge.”

“In our generation,” says Pusey, “the difficulties of financing higher education have increased substantially. Twenty-five years ago income from that part of Harvard’s endowment fund which belongs to the college met 47% of the cost of operating the college. Last year this income met less than 27% … Though the amount of endowment has considerably increased, and the income from it has doubled in 25 years, the significant fact is that during this period the costs of operating the college have quadrupled . .. President Lowell said in 1921, ‘Universities, if successful, must be beggars, and the better work they do the more they must beg.’ The plea I now make for Harvard College becomes by extension a plea for all higher education. All colleges and universities that are alive are in need.”

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