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The Harvard Crimson Writes...

The Harvard Crimson writes:

Would you be free either tomorrow or Friday for an interview? If so, what time would work best for you?

I reply:

Don't know what I can say that I haven't already said:

The population of people qualified and wanting to go to elite American colleges has multiplied between five and tenfold over the past half century. During that time the University of California has scaled itself up roughly from 4,000 to 40,000 undergraduates a year. Harvard has received roughly $15 billiion or so in gifts to carry out its mission as a charitable philanthropy and yet has only managed to scale up from roughly 1200 to 1600 undergraduates a year.

As an alumnus, I think that pretty much speaks for itself.

I had a very good time as a Harvard undergraduate because I found a niche in it--Social Studies--that functioned like a small liberal arts college and because I very quickly found my way as a sophomore into the graduate economics classes (which I had the math to handle). But many others I know did not, and my years as a junior faculty member and as head tutor of economics make me think that there is an enormous disproportion between resource inputs and educational outputs. This is a place where the ethos of the senior Arts and Sciences faculty--well, I remember one dinner at one New England college where a political science professor just back from a semester visiting Harvard said that his first week there Harvey Mansfield had stopped by, looked into his office, and said: "You should close your door. If you don't, undergraduates may wander in."

I would suggest that you talk to the ex-presidents: Bok, Rudenstine, and Summers. Ask them how things looked from Massachusetts Hall over the past forty years, and why they made the choices they did. It would be interesting to hear...


Brad DeLong