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Money, Money, Money!

January 14, 2008, 7:35 pm

Today I dug down to the bottom of my holiday mail and found my TIAA-CREF statement. I opened it and — Crap! How did I lose all that money? And then I realized — oh yeah, the real estate investment option, which allowed me to ride through the last stock market free fall, making money all the way, is currently my doom. And now it seems too late to get out, since there was all last quarter and then half of this one when the envelope was just sitting on my desk unopened. I’m thinking I just hang on for a bit, keep the shares, and eventually TIAA-CREF will figure out a better way to make money from real estate than buying packaged securities from mortgage brokers who trick old people and working stiffs out of their life’s saving and equity. All the same, I’m checking in at piggy bank blues to see if she has any advice other than “Open your mail when it arrives, stupid!”

Fortunately, however, if I ever want to send the dog to Harvard I won’t have to take out a second mortgage on the house. Their new financial aid policies are shaking up the world of top-rank colleges and universities, private and public. I have run into more than one little huddle of admissions office people and upper-level administrators at Zenith and elsewhere who are worried about what colleges who don’t have an endowment worth billions are supposed to do to make students who don’t go to Harvard believe that we can’t afford to let most of them go to school for the cost of a Toyota Corolla with power windows. I am reminded of this because of historian Anthony Grafton’s piece in today’s Daily Princetonian, Class Tells. (Hat tip: yes, I know it’s a well known conservative website, but Radicals have to stay up to date too, you know.) Tony asks us to think further about Harvard’s new financial aid policy, announced in December, that defines families with incomes between $120 and $180K as “middle income.” Such families will only be asked to pay 10% of their income. Does Harvard mean such families are “Middle class?” No, probably not, Tony suggests; the phrase is a deliberate sleight of hand. They actually mean people who are wealthy, but not wealthiest. As Tony points out, “only 15.73 percent of households earned more than $100,000 a year, and fewer than a third of them, the top 5 percent, earned more than $157,176. The president of Harvard is saving the dream, in other words — for children whose families earn more than 95 percent or 96 percent of American households.”

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Please note a newcomer to the Tenured Radical blogroll, although not a newcomer to the world of blogging: Juan Cole, at Informed Comment. Juan is professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan.

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