Keeping Education Affordable

An Ivy League challenge that’s accessible and affordable?

Illustration by Riccardo Vecchio

Yes, it’s possible. Here at Harvard Extension School, we often hear students refer to us as Harvard University’s best-kept secret: A high-caliber academic experience for nontraditional students—rigorous courses and well-regarded faculty—available at reasonable tuition rates and convenient times. But we never intended to keep it a secret.

In fact, after a century of providing high quality, affordable education, we’re surprised some people are just learning about us. Let us share how we do it, and why.

Harvard has long been committed to the public.

We are here for anyone who wants to learn. Our continuing education program dates back to the early twentieth century, when under Harvard University President A. Lawrence Lowell, several college courses were extended to the public—a boundary-breaking initiative.

One hundred years since our founding, the Extension School still serves the public, both locally and internationally, by offering more than 600 courses in the liberal arts and professional fields, from Elementary Spanish and Understanding Poetry to Organic Chemistry and General Managers in Action. We open doors to those looking to grow in their careers, fulfill degree requirements, engage in research, or expand horizons.

Tuition stays affordable but the offerings increase.

Back in 1909, the first Extension courses cost $5 a year. Although the cost has necessarily increased, our prices are still lower than most state public universities. Our undergraduate rates are about $1,000 per course, and our graduate rates are about $2,000.

We benefit from using existing University resources like classroom space and computer labs. As an evening school for working professionals and others around the globe, we don’t have dorms to operate. There are no hidden fees—it’s just about you and what you want from your education. Simply put, you get a quality education at a real value.

The faculty is drawn to teaching here.

Your instructors are dedicated to you and the courses they teach. Like the other resources we share to keep courses affordable, our faculty is largely drawn from Harvard College and University departments, as well as other universities, and business and community organizations.

The instructors get to teach about what they love. They appreciate that you are investing in your education, and welcome your unique perspectives in class.

We keep the giving going.

As part of the Harvard University community, the Extension School also invests in maintaining the excellence of the University, from building state-of-the-art classrooms for our distance education and science courses, to supporting University facilities.

We’ve aided in the major renovation of Sever Hall, where many of our classes are held, and helped restore New College Theatre, home to the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, where each year a well-known actor or actress is given the dubious honor of the Hasty Pudding Award.

But is this really Harvard?

You bet—it’s just Harvard in the evening. You have the opportunity to be taught by professors from many of the schools within Harvard University, from the Medical School to Harvard College. Classes held on campus are right in Harvard Square in the same buildings other students use during the day.

As a student, you have access to the Grossman Library and more than 3,000 electronic databases and journals through the Harvard Libraries. You can also tap into career or academic counseling.

The Extension School offers you a chance to prove your potential in an Ivy League classroom. Getting into a class is not dependent on how you scored on standardized tests or your résumé, but rather on your desire to learn and succeed.

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