Really, you can’t make this stuff up. As previously noted, the Mass. GOP is very, very upset about the fact that Harvard offers what is in fact a less generous compensation benefit to its faculty than many other educational institutions. You see, in order to attract high quality faculty, many private colleges and universities offer their faculty free or hugely-discounted tuition if their kids choose to attend the home institution, or partial tuition if the kids go elsewhere. As just a couple of examples, UPenn offers faculty kids a 75% discount if the kids attend UPenn, or up to 40% of UPenn’s tuition if they go elsewhere. Columbia pays full tuition if the kids go to Columbia, or half tuition if they go elsewhere. And University of Chicago pays up to 75% of Chicago’s own tuition rate, regardless of where the kids go to school. That’s a lot of cash on the barrelhead.
Harvard, apparently, does not do this, to the consternation of some of its faculty. Instead, it offers a no-interest loan for certain educational expenses, and Elizabeth Warren appears to have taken advantage of that benefit. Here’s a 2006 Harvard Crimson story on the subject (Harvard’s actual info on tuition assistance for faculty kids appears to be password protected – let me know if you can find it).
[Harvard] Professors with children say they do not have sufficient access to daycare and do not receive the same financial support that their colleagues at other schools get for their children’s tuition….
While schools including Princeton and Yale subsidize half of the tuition costs for their faculty members’ children—at these schools or another undergraduate institution—Harvard offers no tuition discounts to professors’ progeny.
According to Lisa Martin, chair of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) Standing Committee on Women, Harvard’s “tuition assistance” consists of interest free loans to help with education at any institution.
Princeton pays half tuition at any undergraduate institution for the children of faculty who have been employed at the school for at least five years.
And Yale offers a 50 percent tuition discount at undergraduate institutions to the children of full time employees who have worked a minimum of six years, according to the Princeton and Yale websites.
So, basically, if Elizabeth Warren had gone to teach at any other Ivy League school, she would have been handed a big pile of cash for her kids’ tuition. Instead, having decided to teach at Harvard, she got to borrow money from Harvard, which she of course had to pay back. Yes, the loan was interest free. But no, it’s not an especially generous benefit – in fact, it’s a good deal less generous than what many other institutions offer their faculty.
Which brings us to the Massachusetts Republican Party. As we know, they and the Brown campaign are terribly upset about this benefit that a private institution chooses to afford its employees. So upset, in fact, that the MA GOP wants to get the government involved. Here’s that email from the MA GOP again:
When consumers get taken advantage of like this, who is going to look out for them? It sounds like a job for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
If you are a struggling family in need of a zero-interest loan to get through these tough times, and wonder how you can get a deal like Professor Warren, tell the CFPB your story.
Or if you are just sick and tired of politicians like Warren getting sweetheart deals at your expense, complain to the CFPB here.
Oh, the irony, the irony. Not only does this absurd email undermine what Republicans generally, and Scott Brown specifically, claim to stand for by urging a government agency to get involved in regulating what benefits a private institution may offer its employees, it also openly acknowledges that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – which is of course Elizabeth Warren’s signature achievement – is a good and necessary thing, even though most Republicans hate it.
It’s also stupid. Harvard’s no-interest loan is a far less generous tuition benefit than that offered by comparable institutions, and therefore this argument (also from the email):
students at Harvard pay interest on their student loans so that Harvard can then loan out that tuition money at zero interest to Elizabeth Warren. Students pay more so Warren can pay nothing.
is totally wrong. It’s in fact precisely the reverse: to the extent that faculty tuition benefits actually affect student tuition rates (and that extent is probably close to zero), Warren should be commended for teaching at Harvard, which spends far less on faculty tuition benefits than comparable institutions.
But hey, MA GOP, don’t let reality get in the way of a cheap attack. It’s never stopped you before.