The ‘H-Bomb’ Fizzles: The Harvard Brand Takes a Hit

There exists a species of person — typically a well-groomed overachiever — who, when asked where he or she went to college, rather than state its name directly, will provide a Russian nesting doll set of geographical responses.

In New England. Massachusetts. Well, Boston. Um … Cambridge.

Finally, sotto voce, with an apologetic wince or sheepish smile, anticipating the word’s being volleyed back in an affected

.. that formerly contrived embarrassment may be ceding to sincere shame and a reassessment of the merits of a Harvard education.

.. Harvard had the sixth-most-reported rape cases on campus in 2014, and its law school figured prominently in the controversial documentary about campus sexual assault

.. Daniel Golden’s 2006 book, “The Price of Admission,” about how the rich buy their way into elite schools, has become newly relevant for its disclosure that Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, received acceptance to Harvard despite an unremarkable academic record, possibly thanks to his father’s donation of $2.5 million.

.. A spokeswoman for Mr. Kushner denied the allegation, noting that Mr. Kushner graduated with honors; Mr. Golden observed that, in a climate of rampant grade inflation, so did about 90 percent of Mr. Kushner’s graduating class of 2003.

.. The acquisitive-rather-than-inquisitive Harvard grad is not a baseless stereotype: Nearly two-fifths of the class of 2016 said they were going into finance or consulting

.. By comparison, just 6 percent went into nonprofit or public service work, and 4 percent into education.

.. In fairness to Harvard, it asks no contribution from families making less than $65,000 per year and provides sliding-scale tuition for those earning more. The New York Times 2015 College Access Index, measuring schools’ efforts to promote economic diversity, ranked it 11th over all and fourth among private colleges, far ahead of places better known for their diversity, such as Oberlin (ranked 132nd).

However, its ratio of federal Pell Grant recipients (for low-income students) to endowment per student is much less impressive.

.. over a third of the student body comes from families earning more than $250,000 a year (the wealthiest 4 percent of households), with more students from the $500,000-and-up 1 percenters than $40,000-and-below families.

.. A 2005 book, “Equity and Excellence in American Higher Education,” determined that, all else being equal, top schools do not offer any admission advantage to low-income students, despite lip service to the contrary.

.. Some parents, though, including alumni, are rebelling against the Harvard-or-bust mentality, not only because of the stresses it places on their overworked children, but from misgivings about the conformist and careerist atmosphere of the Ivy Leagues.

.. “I would like my kids to find their passion, take risks and be curious, engaged, educated people,”

.. “Elite schools discourage kids from being that; they want them to build résumés, to build careers, to be cautious. The kinds of people who go to Harvard tend to be people who succeed by traditional metrics, and that continues after Harvard. I’d like my kids not to be so beholden to those metrics.

.. “only privileged people” like himself “can afford not to be concerned” about the attainment of privilege.

.. he encounters more students who question whether going to a prestigious school “is something that’s really going to make me happy and lead to a fulfilling life.”

“But there’s a feeling like you don’t have a choice” in an increasingly aristocratic society in which one’s college is a primary determinant of status, he added.

.. what privilege says about each of our characters — makes us uncomfortable. Our privilege forces us to question our worthiness and our merit, two of the things most highly valued at an institution like this one.”