Harvard’s ART Institute Receives ‘Failing’ Grade, Suspends Admissions

Annnd scene.

harvard university flag

Photo by Olga Khvan

More trouble in paradise for Harvard.

Last week the U.S. Department of Education deemed Harvard University’s ART Institute, a two-year graduate program in theater, as “failing” when it was calculated that the program leaves students with unmanageable debt given loans and prospective incomes after graduation. The debt-to-earnings ratio must be under 20 percent to be federally approved, but graduates of Harvard’s ART face a ratio of 44 percent. The two-year program costs $62,593, and graduates are only estimated to earn $36,000 annually. These numbers left Harvard no choice but to freeze taking a class of 2019 because of the need for federal financial aid to continue.

Harvard’s ART Institute was one of the very few nonprofit programs that were unable to pass this test; 98 percent of the failing programs were for-profit. The U.S. Department of Education’s motive behind grading programs is to ensure that students are investing in their futures wisely, and setting themselves up for success rather than failure. If a program leaves a student with impossible debt, the program does not seem worth it. It’s part of the Obama administration’s desire to protect students.

This interruption does not affect currently enrolled students, of course, who can complete the program, earning them that coveted (well, less so lately) right to say, “I went to Harvard,” and apparently a whole lot of debt.