Or What’s A Harvard For?

Sean Carroll sets the record straight.

Harvard University’s endowment is $35 billion, and some people aren’t happy about it. Massachusetts legislators see money that could be theirs, and are contemplating new taxes. Social activists see money that could be going to charity, and want to divert it. Distinguished alumni who have landed at public universities wonder why, with all that cash, Harvard graduates such a tiny number of students.

These are all legitimate concerns, and I won’t be suggesting the ideal policy compromise. But there is one misimpression that people seem to have, that might as well be corrected before any hasty actions are taken: the purpose of Harvard is not to educate students. If anything, its primary purpose is to produce research and scholarly work.

I think Sean (Ph.D. Astronomy, Harvard) is correct, but then any student who goes there for the education is mistaken. Attending a “research facility” is not the way for a man’s reach to exceed his grasp, as Browning noted, and I would think that most students would be able to better spend their money elsewhere.

Explore posts in the same categories: Education, Personal

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