Harvard Extension School

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Harvard University
Extension School
Established 1910[1]
Type Private
Dean Huntington D. Lambert
Location Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
Campus Urban
Website extension.harvard.edu

Harvard University Extension School, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of the twelve degree-granting schools of Harvard University,[2] offering professional certificates and liberal arts-based[3] undergraduate and graduate degree programs aimed at nontraditional students,[4] as well as open-enrollment continuing education courses in 60 fields. Admission to the undergraduate and graduate degree programs requires successful completion of pre-admission courses and is subject to an application and admission committee process.


Founded in 1910, by Abbott Lawrence Lowell, Harvard Extension School was designed to serve the educational interests and needs of the greater Boston community,[5] but has since extended its "academic resources to the public, locally, nationally, and internationally."[4]

After 100 years, an estimated 500,000 students have taken courses at the Extension School.[5] While there has never been an entrance exam and fees were kept as low as possible to allow as many as possible to enroll, only .18% have ever earned a degree.[6] Including certificate earners, 2.5% have graduated.[7] Today more degrees are awarded each year than were awarded in the first 50 years combined.[7]


  • James Hardy Ropes, Chairman of Commission on Extension Courses, Dean of University Extension, 1910-1922
  • Arthur F. Whittem, Chairman of Commission on Extension Courses, Director of University Extension, 1922-1946
  • George W. Adams, Chairman of Commission on Extension Courses, Director of University Extension, 1946-1949
  • Reginald H. Phelps, Chairman of Commission on Extension Courses, Director of University Extension, 1949-1975
  • Michael Shinagel, Director of Continuing Education and University Extension, 1975-1977, and Dean of Continuing Education and University Extension, 1977-2013
  • Huntington D. Lambert, Dean of Continuing Education and University Extension, 2013–present


Harvard Extension School is overseen by the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences.[8] Undergraduate degree programs are based upon the curriculum for Harvard College students; these requirements include expository writing, quantitative reasoning, foreign language, moral reasoning, writing-intensive classes, and courses in the student's area of concentration.[9] Students who wish to earn degrees must be formally admitted to the Extension School, while students may audit courses without being admitted. Harvard Extension School offers more than six-hundred on-campus and online courses,[10] taught by both Harvard faculty and instructors from the Greater Boston community.[11] Harvard Extension School also offers more than 200 online courses [10] in two formats: asynchronous video courses (lectures are recorded and uploaded within 24 hours of on-campus class meetings); and live web-conference courses (courses are streamed live, and typically allow for synchronous participation from students via a secondary online platform).[12]

Students may enroll full or part-time, and classes may be taken on campus, via the Internet, or both, but in order to earn an academic degree, students must complete a minimum number of on-campus-only credits at Harvard.[13][14] Non-degree seeking students have access to resources through Harvard’s Grossman library, electronic resources through the Harvard Libraries Portal and select computer facilities.[15] Admitted degree candidates are granted full privileges to Harvard's libraries, facilities, student resources, as well as access to Harvard's museums and academic workshops.[16] Graduates of the Extension School are alumni of Harvard University.[17]


Harvard Extension School is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges as one of the twelve degree-granting schools of Harvard University.[10]

Awards and honors[edit]

ALB students may graduate with Latin honors (cum laude only. magna- and summa- cum laude are not available)

ALM students may, upon graduation, be included in the ALM Dean's list for Academic achievement, based on GPA requirements.

The Dean’s Prize for Outstanding Master of Liberal Arts thesis is awarded during commencement ceremonies, and includes a medal, a certificate, and a monetary award. It is awarded to a student whose graduate thesis "embodies the highest level of imaginative scholarship."[18] In addition to the Dean’s Prize for Outstanding ALM Thesis, there are four other major academic prizes — the Phelps, Crite, Langlois, and Small prizes — as well as the Bok, Aurelio, Yang, and Wood prizes.[19]

Academic degrees[edit]

Harvard University Extension School currently offers one undergraduate degree, the Bachelor of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies (ALB), and one graduate degree, the Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies (ALM).[20] From 1911 to 1933, the Extension School offered an Associate in Arts, and from 1933 to 1960 they offered an Adjunct in Arts.[21] Both were considered the equivalent of a bachelor's degree.[21] From 1971 to 2014, the Extension School offered an Associate of Arts in Extension Studies (AA), the equivalent of a two year degree.[21]

Bachelor of Liberal Arts requirements[edit]

Once admitted as an ALB degree candidate, students must successfully complete 128 credits[22] (Harvard courses are typically 4 credits each) and maintain good academic standing (3.0 GPA) to meet graduation requirements.[23] Upon admission into the ALB program, students may petition to transfer up to a maximum of 64 credits from other accredited post-secondary institutions, but 64 credits must be completed at Harvard University (Extension School, Summer School, or the Faculty of Arts and Sciences).[23] Students must also select one of three 'areas of concentration' including: Sciences; Social Sciences; or Humanities. Students must earn 40 credits with at least a B– in their areas of concentration.[24]

ALB degree candidates are also required to complete a minimum of 16 on-campus-only credits at Harvard;[25] students must also complete a minimum of 12 credits in "Writing intensive" courses, and earn a minimum of 52 credits in courses that are taught by Harvard instructors.[22] In addition to a concentration, degree candidates have the option to pursue one of twenty 'Fields of study', (akin to a traditional major). In order to successfully complete a field of study, students must earn a B– or higher in 32 Harvard credits in one field, and maintain a B average in the field. Students may also complement their field of study with a maximum of one liberal arts minor.[24]

Undergraduate admissions[edit]

Undergraduate degree programs require preadmission courses as well as a formal application process.[26] Students applying for degree candidacy must first complete three 4-credit liberal arts courses at Harvard (Extension School, Summer School, or the Faculty of Arts and Sciences) with at least a B grade in each, and maintain a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA.[10] One of these three pre-admission courses must be an expository writing course.[10] To enroll in this course, students must pass a placement test, which measures critical reading and writing skills.[27] Students who meet all these criteria are then eligible to submit an application for admission to the University into either of the Extension School's undergraduate degree programs.[10]

Master of Liberal Arts degrees[edit]

Harvard Extension School's Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies (ALM) includes nineteen Liberal Arts Fields of Study and seven Professional Degree Programs (Biotechnology, Information Technology, Journalism, Management, Mathematics for Teaching, Museum Studies, & Sustainability and Environmental Management).[20] ALM candidates must complete 10 to 12 courses including a thesis or capstone project depending on their degree program, which must be crafted under the direction of an instructor or Harvard faculty member holding a teaching appointment in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences.[14]

Graduate admissions[edit]

Generally, admission into a graduate degree program at Harvard Extension School requires a minimum of an accredited bachelor's degree (or foreign equivalent), as well as completion of three pre-admission courses with grades of B+ or higher and a minimum of 3.0 overall GPA. One of the three pre-admission courses must be the "Proseminar" course for the intended area of study, which is akin to a traditional research methods course. Certain disciplines have other specified pre-admission coursework, while some have specific coursework that is required before submitting a master's thesis proposal (e.g. biology and psychology fields must take a specific graduate statistics course). Prior to registering for a proseminar, students must successfully pass a placement test, which measures critical reading and writing skills.[27] Students who meet these criteria are then eligible to submit an application for admission into the graduate degree programs.[10]

Once a student has met the three course requirement, he or she is then eligible to formally apply to the ALM program. Typically applicants must submit a completed application, proof of an accredited bachelor's degree (or foreign equivalent) plus transcripts, resume, two essays, and a nonrefundable application fee. Some programs require additional specific classes to be part of the initial three before formal admission.[28] Students will be denied admission indefinitely if they fail to earn a grade of B after twice enrolling in the Proseminar course.[citation needed]

Some programs have additional requirements, including specific pre-admission courses and supplemental application materials. For instance, the Literature and Creative writing candidates must submit original manuscripts.[29] For example, the ALM in Management, offering a concentration in either General Management or Finance, requires a higher coursework GPA for admission than other ALM degree programs. A minimum GPA of 3.33 (B+) must be maintained while achieving no lower than a B in three specific classes (organizational behavior, economics, and accounting for the Management Track; organization behavior, financial accounting, and finance for the Finance Track) taken before being considered for admission.[30]

Student life[edit]

Admitted degree candidates are granted access to Harvard's athletic facilities, dining services, on and off campus apartment housing, career services and student life organizations.[16] ALB candidates are eligible for membership in the Harvard Extension Student Association (HESA). Established in 2001, the HESA's mission is to build and maintain a sense of community among Extension students. In partnership with many other organizations on campus, HESA provides a variety of social activities, educational events, and forums that enrich student life and experience. All degree and diploma candidates in good standing at Harvard Extension School are voting members of HESA.[31] Alpha Sigma Lambda, a national honors society for nontraditional students, established the Phi Beta chapter in 2002-03.[32]

Upon graduation, students are eligible for membership in the Harvard Alumni Association[17] and the Harvard Extension Alumni Association (HEAA).[33] The HEAA was founded in 1967-68 by Ella Smith and Edgar Grossman, both members of the class of 1966.[34] Graduates also take part in the commencement ceremonies with all other schools of Harvard.[35]

In 2000 there were 14,216 students with the youngest in their early teens and the oldest in their late 80s.[36] There is often a span of 60 years between the oldest and youngest students,[37] and students as young as 11 years old have taken courses alongside those old enough to be their parents or grandparents.[38] Of the students enrolled at the turn of the century, 75% had a Bachelor's degree, and 20% had a graduate degree. More than 1,700 were staff members using the Tuition Assistance Program, and an estimated 10%-15% were exclusively online students. Of the 255 Certificate of Special Studies graduates that year, 163 were international students hailing from 39 countries.[36]

In the early 2000s there were 208 students under the age of 18. Most attended local high schools, but a growing number of them were home schooled. Professor Paul Bamberg taught a class with both Extension and Harvard College students, and the top two students were from the Extension School, with the top student being a home schooled teenager.[39] In 2007-08, more than 2,500 international students and nearly 2,000 employees were enrolled in classes.[40]

International students[edit]

Harvard Extension School accepts international students. To be admitted to courses or degrees, a student must prove proficiency in the English language. If English is not a student's native language then he or she must submit an official TOEFL or IELTS score with a minimum score of 100 for the TOEFL or a minimum score of 7.0 for the IELTS. International students must also meet the on-campus-only course requirements as outlined above. The Extension School does not issue I-20s for the F-1 visa but the Summer School does.[41]

Notable alumni[edit]

Both the oldest and youngest graduates in the more than 375 year history of Harvard University received their degrees from the Extension School. In 1997 Mary Fasano became the oldest undergraduate degree recipient,[42] and in 1983 Thomas Small became the oldest student to ever earn a Master's degree.[43] Both were in their 90th year. The youngest degree earner in Harvard history was 18 year old Amit Chatterjee who earned an ALB in 2002.[44]

One of Small's classmates, Christopher Lohse, was selected to give the graduate commencement address. His speech, the 10,000 Ghosts of Harvard, was a play on both University's fight song and the fact that classes are taught after dark.[43] In 1989 another ALM graduate gave the commencement address. Joseph R. Paolino, Jr. began his studies as a Providence city councilor, and at the time of his speech he was the Mayor of Providence. He went on to become Ambassador to Malta.

In 1936 one person had taken courses for 26 consecutive years, and two others had been students for 24 years.[45] Other notable alumni include:

  • Francesca Aguilar, CSS ’98 - Manager, Global Sports Partnerships, The Coca-Cola Company[46]
  • Jenny Allard, ALM '99 - Sportswoman
  • Robert J. Allison, ALB - Professor of History, Suffolk University[47]
  • Linda Attiyeh, ABE ’61 - Director, McKinsey & Company Inc[46]
  • Bruce Berg, CSS ’04 - Director of Development Research, Northeastern University[46]
  • Sarah Buel, ALB '87 - Attorney
  • Francisco Santos Calderón, CSS - Vice President, Republic of Colombia[46]
  • Rory Cowan, ABE ’79 - CEO, Lionbridge Technologies Inc[46]
  • Allan Crite, ABE '68 - Artist
  • Nita Farahany, Professor of Law and Philosophy, Duke University, ALM '07 - Member, Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues[48]
  • Kumiki Gibson, ALB'85 - Chief Counsel to 45th Vice President of the United States[49]
  • Charles Harper, CSS ’97 - Executive Director and Senior Vice President, John Templeton Foundation[46]
  • T. Rose Holdcraft, CSS ’95 - Conservator and Administrative Head of Conservation Department, Harvard University Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology[50]
  • Bradley Jones Jr, AA ’87, ALB ’88 - Massachusetts House Minority Leader[46]
  • Suzanne Koven, ALM '08 - Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School[51]
  • George Krupp, ALB ’95 - Co-founder, The Berkshire Group[46]
  • Levani Lipton, CSS ’05 - Executive Director, Ananda Foundation[46][52]
  • Robert Maginn, ALM ’81 - CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors, Jenzabar Inc.[46][53]
  • Shawn H. O’Day, ALM ’04 - Major, US Air Force[46]
  • Joseph R. Paolino, Jr., ALM '89, Ambassador to Malta
  • Richard Peisch, ABE ’76 - Founder and President, Medical Data Processing, Inc[46]
  • Sal Perisano, ALM ’87 - CEO and Chairman, iParty[46][54]
  • Mark Plotkin, ALB ’79 - Ethnobotanist; President, Amazon Conservation Team [46]
  • Elias Reichel, AB ’82, CSS ’99 - Vitreoretinal Surgeon[46]
  • Martha Rose Reeves, CSS ’98 - US Administrative Law Judge[46]
  • Matthew Ruggiero, AA ’82, ALB ’84 - Bassoonist, Boston Symphony Orchestra[46][55]
  • Jane Margolis, ALM ’85 - Author[56]
  • Commander Ted Johnson, US Navy, ALM '11 - White House Fellow, 2011-2012[57]
  • Janice Shields, ALM ’05 - Managing Director and Co-Founder, Shields and Company, Inc[46]
  • Liyann Seet, ALB ’13 - Miss Asia Pacific Petite World 2013 ; Founder and CEO, International Children Foundation[46]
  • John Sullivan, ALM ’01 - Associate Professor of Administrative Sciences, Boston University[46]
  • Latanya Sweeney, ALB ’95 - Associate Professor of Computer Science, Technology, and Policy, Carnegie Mellon University; Editor in Chief, Journal of Privacy Technology [46][58]
  • Scott Taylor ALB '14 - Virginia House of Delegates, Former Navy SEAL
  • Álvaro Uribe, CSS ’93 - 56th President of Colombia[46]
  • Luis Carlos Velez, CSS ’99 - Anchor Reporter CNN, Caracol [46]
  • John Vermilye, ALB ’80 - Founder and CEO, Travel Sentry, Inc[46]
  • Marian Woodward, ALB ’00 - Miss Black USA 1995–96; Miss North America 1999[46]

Coat of arms[edit]

The Coat of Arms for the Extension School was approved in 1983. At the top of the shield the three books spelling out Veritas represent graduate education, as the same device is found on the arms of the other graduate schools. Instead of a straight line separating it from the rest of the shield, as is found in the other schools, a line with six arcs pointing up was used instead. A silver chevron was used to represent undergraduate education, a device used in the shield of the College in the 17th to 19th centuries. Two bushels of wheat are included to represent John Lowell's stipulation that courses should not cost more than two bushels of wheat. A golden lamp is included to represent both learning and the fact that classes are taught at night.[59]


Year[1] Enrollment
1910-11 863
1930-31 1,690
1934-35 871
1942-43 808
1945-46 1,243
1946-47 1,528
1947-1948 1,955
1951-52 2,062
1952-1953 2,141
1956-57 2,890
1959-60 5,500+
1962-63 7,448
1963-64 8,435
1963-64 8,693
1971-72 10,000+
1974-75 9,677
1975-76 9,705
1977-78 ~11,677
1979-80 12,567
1981-82 17,034
1983-84 19,561
1984-85 20,366
1986-87 20,578
1990-91 ~22,500
1999-2000 ~24,000
2007-08 25,000+

Courses offered

Year[1] Courses offered
1910 16
1915-15 24
1918-19 33
1921-22 22
1951-52 30
1956-57 37
1959-60 56
1962-63 70
1971-72 144
1974-75 135
1975-76 ~200
1979-80 316
1980-81 335
1981-82 398
1983-84 480
1984-85 527
1986-87 575
1999-2000 584

Degrees awarded

Year[1] Associate Bachelors Masters
1913-1933 120* n/a n/a
1934-1936 24* n/a n/a
1937-1952 78* n/a n/a
1953 6* n/a n/a
1954-1962 57* n/a n/a
1963 n/a 14 n/a
1964 n/a 22 n/a
1966 n/a 35 n/a
1967 n/a 31 n/a
1968 n/a 48 n/a
1971 n/a 38 n/a
1972 44 54 n/a
1975 37 42 n/a
1976** <82 <82 n/a
1980 n/a  ? 1
1981 n/a  ? 3
1982 n/a 91 15
1985** n/a <158 <158
1987** n/a <143 <143
2000** <226 <226 <226
2008 7 111 91

(*From 1913 until 1932 Harvard offered Associate in Arts Degrees, and from 1933 until 1962 they awarded Adjunct in Arts degrees. Both were considered the equivalent of a Bachelor's Degree, but without the residency requirement.)

(** Only aggregate numbers were reported for these years.)


  1. ^ a b c d Shinagel, Michael (2010), The Gates Unbarred: A History of University Extension at Harvard, 1910 - 2009, Harvard University Press, ISBN 0674051351 
  2. ^ "Harvard Extension School Info Session 2013-14". YouTube. Retrieved 2013-08-19. 
  3. ^ "Harvard Extension School- Interview with Dean Lambert". 
  4. ^ a b "Harvard Extension School- About us". Retrieved 24 June 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Shinagel 2010, p. 220.
  6. ^ Shinagel 2010, p. 214.
  7. ^ a b Shinagel 2010, p. 221.
  8. ^ "Faculty of Arts & Sciences". Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 2014-05-30. 
  9. ^ A Solid Foundation: Associate in Arts and Bachelor of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies. Cambridge: Harvard University Extension School, 2012. Print.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g [extension.harvard.edu]
  11. ^ Li, Xianlin (2006-05-08). "Extension Students Seek Ivy Degrees". Thecrimson.com. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  12. ^ "Distance Education | Harvard Distance Learning Courses". Harvard Extension School. Retrieved 2014-05-30. 
  13. ^ n.b. These requirements vary for each degree, from 4 classes in residency for the ALB or the ALM/Biology, two semesters residency requirement for the general ALM, and up to 50% residency requirement for the ALM/Management. It is therefore not possible to receive an academic degree solely through distance learning.
  14. ^ a b Harvard Extension School, Degree Requirements. "Degree Requirements". Harvard University. Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  15. ^ "Resources and Benefits". Harvard Extension School. Retrieved 2014-05-30. 
  16. ^ a b http://www.extension.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/ext_dcib.pdf
  17. ^ a b "Schools | Harvard Alumni". Alumni.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2014-05-30. 
  18. ^ "Extension School recognizes outstanding grads". Harvard Gazette. May 30, 2013. Retrieved 2014-05-31. 
  19. ^ "Extension School Award Prize Winners". 
  20. ^ a b "Partial Online Degree Programs and Certificates at Harvard". Harvard Extension School. Retrieved 2014-05-30. 
  21. ^ a b c "History of Degree Offerings". Harvard Extension School. Retrieved 2014-11-11. 
  22. ^ a b "Degree Requirements | Harvard Extension Undergraduate Degrees". Harvard Extension School. Retrieved 2014-05-30. 
  23. ^ a b "Bachelor of Liberal Arts Requirements at Harvard Extension School". Harvard Extension School. Retrieved 2014-05-30. 
  24. ^ a b "Bachelor of Liberal Arts Requirements at Harvard Extension School". Harvard Extension School. Retrieved 2014-05-30. 
  25. ^ Jeannie Marie Phillips. "Online Courses and On-Campus Requirement | Undergraduate Degree Program". Harvard Extension School. Retrieved 2014-05-30. 
  26. ^ "Admission to the Harvard Extension Undergraduate Program". Harvard Extension School. Retrieved 2014-05-30. 
  27. ^ a b "Admission to the Harvard Extension Undergraduate Program". Harvard Extension School. Retrieved 2014-05-30. 
  28. ^ Shead, Mark. "Master's Degree Online from Harvard Extension School". Productivity501. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  29. ^ "Applying to the ALM Program". Harvard Extension School. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  30. ^ — A recent student survey respondent. "HES Management Admissions Webpage". Harvard Extension School. Retrieved 2014-05-30. 
  31. ^ "Harvard Extension Student Association : Official". Hesa.dce.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  32. ^ Shinagle 2010, p. 208.
  33. ^ A recent alumni survey respondent. "Harvard Extension Alumni Association". Harvard Extension School. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  34. ^ Shinagle 2010, p. 111.
  35. ^ "Harvard Commencement with Extension School Graduates". Harvard Extension School. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  36. ^ a b Shinagle 2010, p. 199.
  37. ^ Shinagle 2010, p. 212.
  38. ^ Louise Miller. "Young Scholars Find Challenges, Acceptance at Extension School". Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
  39. ^ Gates 2010, p. 210.
  40. ^ Shinagle 2010, p. 213.
  41. ^ "International Students". Harvard Extension School. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  42. ^ Shinagle 2010, p. 153.
  43. ^ a b Shinagle 2010, p. 138.
  44. ^ Shinagle 2010, p. 211.
  45. ^ Shinagle 2010, p. 55.
  46. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y [1][dead link]
  47. ^ "Robert Allison, Professor & Chair". Suffolk.edu. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  48. ^ http://law.duke.edu/sites/default/files/Farahany%20Academic%20CV%20-%202-2013.pdf
  49. ^ "Johns Hopkins Gazette | December 15, 2003". Jhu.edu. 2003-12-15. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  50. ^ [2][dead link]
  51. ^ "Suzanne Koven, M.D., Harvard Medical School | Gather". Suzannekoven.gather.com. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  52. ^ "Harvard Extension School Alumni Bulletin: Fall 2005". Dce.harvard.edu. 2006-01-09. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  53. ^ "Executive Management Team". Jenzabar. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  54. ^ "Sal Perisano - Forbes". People.forbes.com. 2012-04-18. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  55. ^ "Harvard Extension School Alumni Bulletin: Fall 2002". Dce.harvard.edu. 2002-10-18. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  56. ^ Acuervo (2014-04-29). "margolis | UCLA GSEIS". Gseis.ucla.edu. Retrieved 2014-05-30. 
  57. ^ "HES Hub special page". Harvard Extension School. 2012-02-10. Retrieved 2014-05-30. 
  58. ^ "Dr. Latanya Sweeney, Curriculum Vitae". Dataprivacylab.org. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  59. ^ Gates 2010, p. 137.

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External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°22′27″N 71°07′18″W / 42.3743°N 71.1216°W / 42.3743; -71.1216