On May 30, 2013, Mr. Peter Koutoujian, the sheriff of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, donning a silk top hat and dress coat, pounded a silver-tipped cane three times to call to order Harvard University’s 362nd commencement ceremony. Such pomp and grandeur are characteristic of Harvard University, from where presidents such as John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama graduated. But it was not the richness of tradition, the blowing of the trumpets, the processions, or even Oprah Winfrey’s declaration – “Oh my goodness… I’m at Haaavad” that created the most talk amongst graduates. Rather it was the Graduate English Orator, John Murad’s, idealistic call to service that stood out at this year’s ceremony.
Mr. Murad, now a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School, advised students to recognize that “success doesn’t mean rising to the top; it means changing the world.” According to Mr. Murad, “there is as much stature in being teachers…” as being in more lucrative or prestigious professions. Yet with an estimated cost of attendance for undergraduate students being approximately $56,000 and with financial aid increasingly limited, how realistically can Harvard students pursue Murad’s idealistic call to service?
The most effective path to balancing the desire for a Harvard education, a career in pedagogy, and the high, Harvard tuition rate is to attend the Harvard Graduate School of Education after graduating from lesser-priced undergraduate institutions. The Harvard Graduate School of Education granted degrees to 744 students this May as proud parents and family members such as Gail Purtz, grandmother of Emma Swift, Ed.M., 2013, looked on.
The Harvard Graduate School of Education covers full tuition and health fees for five years and guarantees work opportunities to cover living expenses for students accepted into the Doctorate of Education program. Similarly, it provides full tuition for the first two years of studies for students accepted into the Doctorate of Educational Leadership program and a paid residency program for the final year. Finally, while Harvard does not offer a blanket fellowship for students in its Masters of Education program, outside funding is available for those who readily seek it. For instance, fourth generation educator, Tracie Sandlin, Ed.M., 2013, funded her studies through a generous fellowship from Teach for America.
While many students hail from less expensive and less prestigious universities such as the University of Houston or the University of Virginia, acceptance into the Harvard Graduate School of Education is highly competitive. For example, the acceptance rate for the Doctorate of Education is at an all time low of 6%. The college considers grades, professional accomplishments, research, essay, extra curricular activities, leadership, and more. However, those who work hard and are accepted can, without breaking the bank, respond to Mr. Murad’s call to “greatness” and create change through service.
Disclaimer: The author, Aradhana Mudambi, graduated at this ceremony on May 30, 2013 with a Doctorate in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.