Harvard Extension School
|Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Division of Continuing Education|
|Dean||Huntington D. Lambert|
|Students||2,520 admitted degree candidates|
(802 undergraduate students)
(1,718 graduate students)
Harvard University Extension School is one of the twelve degree granting schools that compose Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The school offers liberal arts and professional courses, graduate and undergraduate degrees in 60 fields, as well as a premedical program.
The school has a long history of offering on-campus and distance education and provides a variety of amenities and opportunities to students and degree-earning alumni. Since its establishment in 1910, an estimated 500,000 students have taken courses at the Extension School, but only 0.18% have ever earned a degree. While most participants enroll in courses for professional development or personal enrichment, degree candidacy requires formal admission to one of the programs.
- 1 History
- 2 Academics
- 3 Academic degrees
- 4 Student life
- 5 Student demographics
- 6 Alumni
- 7 Coat of arms
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Founded in 1910 by President A. Lawrence Lowell, the Harvard Extension School grew out of the Lowell Institute, which was created according to the terms of a bequest by John Lowell, Jr. It was designed to serve the educational interests and needs of the greater Boston community, particularly those "who had the ability and desire to attend college, but also had other obligations that kept them from traditional schools." It has since extended its "academic resources to the public, locally, nationally, and internationally."
During the 1920s professors from Boston and Harvard University left the confines of their campuses and traveled to teach courses offsite. While they were primarily aimed at teachers, courses were offered wherever 40 or more students expressed an interest. Professors traveled on a weekly basis to places around New England and as far away as Yonkers, New York, some 200 miles away.
Despite falling revenue due to the Great Depression, A. Lawrence Lowell insisted in 1931 that the bequest from John Lowell prevented courses from costing more than two bushels of wheat. As a result, a half-year course cost could no more than $5, and a full course no more than $10. Some courses cost as little as $2.50.
University Extension courses were to be taught by "the most experienced teachers that can be secured" who all received "excellent pay." In the early years courses were run by a commission composed of several Boston area schools, though it was largely a Harvard-run program. In 1938 there were 28 professors from Commission faculties, including 11 full professors. Early faculty included Charles Townsend Copeland, William Yandell Elliot, William Langer, Oscar Handlin, Perry Miller, John Kenneth Galbraith, and Frank M. Carpenter. In 1953 there was a similar number of professors.
In his will, John Lowell asked his successors to set up courses "more erudite and particular corresponding to the age and wants of the age." By the 50th anniversary of the University Extension in 1960, more than 1,400 courses had been offered and there had been more than 85,000 enrollments. While the vast majority of classes were held on the Harvard campus, a few in the late 1960s were offered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston University, as well as at the Old South Meeting House. At this time non-credit courses cost between $15 and $25, and courses for credit cost between $20 and $35.
While there has never been a formal entrance exam such as the SAT, non-native English speakers must provide designated proof of English proficiency or receive a minimum score on the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTEA. Additionally, the preadmission Expository Writing E-25 course requires students to complete E-15 with a grade of B or higher in EXPO 15 or successfully complete the Test of Critical Reading and Writing Skills. Several years after retiring, President Lowell wrote that the Extension courses "have given a service to the public ... which seems to me of the utmost importance." In 2013, more than 100 years after its founding, the Extension School's classes were described as "surprisingly affordable" and the school itself was said to be a "thriving institution."
Harvard University currently offers two degrees in Extension Studies, the Bachelor of Liberal Arts (ALB) and the Master of Liberal Arts (ALM). From 1911 to 1933, the university offered an Associate in Arts, and from 1933 to 1960, it offered an Adjunct in Arts. Both were considered the equivalent of a bachelor's degree. From 1971 to 2014, the university offered an Associate of Arts in Extension Studies (AA), the equivalent of a two-year degree. A Master's in Liberal Arts was added in 1979.
The emphasis on liberal arts in the revised degree titles (for both the A.L.B. and A.L.M. degrees) was not intended to signify a difference in the degree itself versus the University's other offerings, but instead to serve as a response to concerns expressed by some that programs catering to non-traditional students were overly vocational in nature. The purpose of the name was to reaffirm adherence to the University's historic focus on the liberal arts, and distinguish it from other, more vocational, institutions.
A proposal before the Faculty of Arts and Science in 2009 and 2010 to rename the school and the degrees offered was not accepted. A committee, led by Professor of Computer Science Harry R. Lewis, proposed renaming the school the "Harvard School of Continuing and Professional Studies," and to drop the words "in Extension Studies" from degrees, so that the School would offer Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees. Some faculty objected, saying that those degrees were already offered by the College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
In 2014, Harvard University conferred four certificates as well as the following academic degrees: five Associate in the Arts, 152 Bachelor of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies, and 539 Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies.
In 2016, a student group calling itself the Harvard Extension Degree Change Initiative rallied in front of University Hall to call for removing “Extension Studies” from the degree name and adding a student's concentration instead. The Harvard Crimson editorialized in favor saying that they "urge[d] Harvard to consider changing the title of Extension School degrees to include the field of study rather than the ambiguous 'Extension Studies.'" Although the Extension School retains "Extension Studies" in the official title of their degrees, student transcripts reflect the student's area of academic concentration.
There have been six deans in the School's history:
- 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
As a part of the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Harvard Extension School offers more than eight hundred on-campus and online courses. Students take courses with Harvard professors, including Nobel laureates, as well as faculty from Boston-area universities, business professionals, and community leaders in various fields. The number of courses has been growing rapidly over the last five years.
Most of the courses at the Extension School are "virtually identical" to courses offered to the traditional students at Harvard College, with "the only significant difference" being that many of the classes are taught in the evening or at night instead of during the day. This has remained constant over time, as Ropes, the first dean, said that "our aim will be to give the young people of Boston who have heretofore been prevented from securing a college education the same instruction they would receive were they undergraduates at Harvard." In 1953, it was said that the "format of the classes is exactly the same."
Many daytime Harvard College courses are recorded, and offered to Extension students online. For these courses, office hours and other student support are typically offered using live or asynchronous software. Additionally, Extension students are offered the option to attend class lectures for these dual-listed courses on campus. Extension degree candidates who meet required criteria may also apply for "Special Student status" in order to take classes at Harvard College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, or several other Harvard graduate schools. The majority of professors at the School are Harvard affiliates. The remainder are faculty at other institutions and industry professionals.
Students may enroll full or part-time, and classes may be taken on campus, via distance-learning, or both. In order to earn an academic degree, students must complete a minimum number of on-campus-only credits at Harvard.
Non-degree seeking students have access to Harvard's Libraries, including electronic resources through the Harvard Libraries Portal and select computer facilities. A professor at both the Extension School and Harvard College has opined that the open enrollment system "'give[s] a lot' to the institution by permitting an atmosphere of valuable diversity that does not exist at any of Harvard's other schools."
Accreditation and partnerships
The Extension School and Harvard Business School have together created the HBX Credential of Readiness (CORe) program. Having begun in 2014, this program allows undergraduate students at the Extension School to take courses with Business School professors for credit. Students at other institutions may be able to take the courses for transfer credit as well.
The graduate program in Museum Studies has also developed a partnership with the Smithsonian Institution. The new courses include two active learning weekends in Washington, D.C. The Extension School is also looking into partnerships with the School of Public Health, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the Medical School.
A pre-med program was established at the Extension School in 1980. Two years later, in 1982, five students applied to medical school, and 3 were accepted at the University of Massachusetts, Tufts University, and New York University. Of the 19 students who applied to medical schools in 1985, 15 were admitted, including two women to Harvard Medical School.
All 27 graduates who applied to medical school in 1989 were accepted, including three to Harvard Medical School and nine to the University of Massachusetts. Five years later, 90% of students were accepted to medical school, including 5 to Harvard. Only one in three were accepted nationwide. The Health Careers Program has sponsored nearly 1,000 students for admission to medical school since it was started in 1979–80, and more than 845 were accepted. This 85% success rate far exceeds the national acceptance rate of 35%.
Harvard Extension was a pioneer in distance education. Beginning on December 5, 1949, courses were offered on the Lowell Institute's new radio station. New Englanders could go to college six nights a week at 7:30 in their living rooms simply by tuning into courses on psychology, world history, and economics. The first course on radio was by Peter A. Bertocci of Boston University. For 30 years he taught Extension courses, with never fewer than 100 students. He often taught over 300 students per course and once had over 400. Over the years Bertocci had at least 7,000 Extension students, "surely a record in the annals of Extension at Harvard."
The radio courses proved to be so successful that when the television station WGBH went on the air in October 1951 they began broadcasting an Extension class every weekday at 3:30 and 7:30. The first course, offered by Robert G. Albion, was on European Imperialism on Monday and Thursday evenings. In the late 1960s, three of the televised courses were offered in the Deer Island Prison. Students who watched the courses on television could attend six "conferences" and take a mid-term and a final exam at Harvard in order to gain credit for the class.
As of 2014[update], distance-learning courses at Harvard Extension School are offered 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).
Awards and honors
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." In addition to the Dean's Prize for Outstanding ALM Thesis, there are several other academic prizes:
- The Academy of American Poets is awarded to an ALB candidate or an undergraduate student at the college for the best poem or group of poems.
- The Santo J. Aurelio Prize, named for Santo J. Aurelio, ALB '83, ALM '85, is awarded annually on the basis of "academic achievement and character." It is normally given to Extension School undergraduate degree recipients who—as did Mr. Aurelio—complete their academic work with distinction after age 50.
- The Derek Bok Public Service Prizes are awards presented at Commencement. They consist of a cash prize along with a citation and a medal given to graduating Extension School students. The award recognizes creative initiatives in community service or long-standing records of civic achievement.
- The Commencement Speaker Prize is awarded to either an ALB or ALM graduate who delivers the student Commencement speech at the Extension School diploma awarding ceremony.
- The Annamae and Allan R. Crite prizes are awarded for a mother and son who are Extension School alumni. Annamae faithfully attended Extension courses for more than 50 years. Allan, who is widely recognized as the dean of African-American artists in the Greater Boston area, received a bachelor's degree in 1968. The prize is awarded to Extension School degree recipients who demonstrate "singular dedication to learning and the arts."
- The Klein Family History Prize recognizes the thesis in the field of history that represents superior achievement in historical scholarship.
- The Harold Langlois Award recognizes a Certificate of Special Studies graduate who has demonstrated exceptional academic accomplishment and promise as a manager. It was established in 2003.
- The Patrick Lee Award in Drama is an annual award given to the student who shows the best promise in the field of dramatic arts.
- The Reginald H. Phelps Prize, named for the former dean, is awarded annually on the basis of "academic achievement and character" to outstanding graduating students receiving bachelor's degrees.
- The Emanuel and Lilly Shinagel prize, named in honor of Dean Michael Shinagel in honor of his parents, supports deserving and needy students in the Extension School's Institute for English Language Programs. The prizes are awarded by the Institute for English Language. The Programs to outstanding students based on an essay writing contest.
- The John Osborne Sargent Prize for a Latin Translation is offered for the best metrical translation [students may choose meter] of a lyric poem of Horace, to be selected each year by the Department of the Classics. In addition to ALB candidates, it is also open to undergraduates at the College and visiting undergraduate under the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
- The Thomas Small Prize is named for a Lithuanian immigrant who, at the age of 89, became the oldest earned graduate degree recipient in the history of Harvard University. Two prizes are awarded annually on the basis "academic achievement and character" to two outstanding Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies degree recipients.
- The Judith Wood Memorial Prizes are awarded during Commencement Week to Harvard Extension School students who, while compiling honors academic records at the School, also contended with disabilities of a serious nature. It was established in honor of a blind Extension Student student who had cystic fibrosis and diabetes to recognize students who must travel a singularly difficult path to degree or certificate completion.
- The Katie Y. F. Yang Prize Fund was established to promote East Asian culture, grant scholarships to exceptional students, and provide charitable assistance to those in need. Mrs. Yang was a leading Chinese opera singer under the stage name Fong Yim Fun. Her daughter, Simmone Yang, received her Certificate of Special Studies (CSS) from the Extension School. The purpose of the Prize is "to recognize the initiative, character, and outstanding academic achievement of foreign students graduating from the CSS Program" in the Extension School. The award is generally given to the foreign student with the highest academic standing in the CSS program.
To be eligible to apply for admission as a student to Harvard Extension School’s degree granting programs, students must "earn [their] way in" by passing the CRWS test, taking three classes, and earning a B or better in each. In 2016, Huntington D. Lambert, estimated that 32% of those who intended to pursue an undergraduate degree (ALB) earned the grades necessary and were considered for admission. If the admission requirements are met, acceptance, while not guaranteed, is very likely. About 85% of those admitted successfully earn their degree (ALB) within 5 years.
Because of the "inverted" admissions process used by the Extension School, it is difficult to compare the acceptance rate with traditional programs, but it has been estimated that acceptance into the graduate programs (ALM), using the number of accepted students and the number of students enrolled in admission courses, is between 15-20%. Based on the traditional metrics, the Extension School is considered "very selective."
Students are "presumed capable" but then must "prove that presumption with actual performance." The "democratic admissions policy for its degree programs ... is based on proof that a student is capable of Harvard-level work, giving degree and certificate candidates the chance to prove themselves." The "most relevant predictor" of success for students is a students' "ability to do honors-level work at Harvard."
ALB students may graduate with the Latin honors, cum laude, but magna- and summa- cum laude are not offered. ALM students may, upon graduation, be included in the ALM Dean's list for Academic achievement, based on strict GPA requirements--a 3.8 GPA or above. Many courses are offered online, but a degree cannot be earned entirely online as students are required to take classes on campus before earning their degree.
Students who wish to earn degrees must be formally admitted to the Extension School by the Admissions Committee. 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. In 2016, an undergraduate degree cost around $40,000, and a graduate degree cost about $32,000.
An Extension School professor asserts that undergraduate HES students "are brilliantly milking the cow of Harvard University," as they "get a very similar experience and then have the Harvard name on [their] résumé." A professor at both the Extension School and Harvard College has opined that the open enrollment system "'give[s] a lot' to the institution by permitting an atmosphere of valuable diversity that does not exist at any of Harvard's other schools."
Bachelor of Liberal Arts
Undergraduate degree programs are based upon the curriculum for Harvard College students and are the academic equivalent of the College's AB degree; degree requirements include expository writing, quantitative reasoning, foreign language, moral reasoning, writing-intensive classes, and courses in the student's area of concentration. The expository writing class is known as a "gatekeeper course" as it will typically "determine whether [students] are prepared for the intensive and demanding curriculum."
Once admitted as an ALB degree candidate, students must successfully complete 128 credits (Harvard courses are typically 4 credits each) and maintain good academic standing (3.0 GPA) to meet graduation requirements. 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). 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.
ALB degree candidates are also required to complete a minimum of 16 on-campus-only credits at Harvard; 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. 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 two academic or professional minors.
Undergraduate degree programs require pre-admission courses as well as a formal application process. 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. One of these three pre-admission courses must be EXPO E-25, the equivalent of Harvard College's mandatory and "notoriously difficult" expository writing course. To enroll in this course, students must pass a placement test, which measures critical reading and writing skills. Students failing to earn at least a B in a class can retake it once. Students who meet all these criteria are then eligible for admission in the Extension School's undergraduate degree programs.
Master of Liberal Arts
The Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies (ALM) includes 19 liberal arts fields of study and seven professional degree programs (Biotechnology, Information Technology, Journalism, Management, Mathematics for Teaching, Museum Studies, & Sustainability). 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.
The Harvard Extension admissions process is rigorous and challenging. Admission into a graduate degree program at the school requires a minimum of an accredited bachelor's degree (or foreign equivalent), the 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, and prior to registering for a proseminar students must pass a qualification test to assess graduate-level critical reading and writing skills. 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). Students who meet these criteria are then eligible to submit an application for admission into the graduate degree programs.
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. Students will be denied admission indefinitely if they fail to earn a grade of B after twice enrolling in the Proseminar course.
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.
Beginning in the 1960s, the university began providing additional facilities for Extension students. Study spaces, conferences rooms, library facilities, and a dining hall were set up in Lehman Hall for students in 1964. In addition, there was a television lounge where students could watch the WGBH programs.
Today, admitted degree candidates are granted access to Harvard's athletic facilities, libraries, dining services, on and off campus apartment housing, career services and student life organizations. Students have "nearly unfettered access to some of Harvard's most prized resources—world-renowned libraries, a distinguished faculty, and an impressive body of speakers." The top 10 percent of the undergraduate (ALB) graduating class in good standing is inducted into the Harvard Extension School’s Phi Beta chapter (established 2002-03) of Alpha Sigma Lambda, the national honor society for nontraditional students. Ordinarily, undergraduate students with GPAs of 3.8 or higher are eligible. Degree candidates and alumni are also eligible for working at the Harvard Innovation Lab.
The Harvard Extension Student Association (HESA) is the official acting student government for the Harvard Extension School and is the organization responsible for school's representation on the University's Harvard Graduate Council. All degree and diploma candidates in good standing at the school are voting members of HESA. Degree candidates are also eligible to be elected to HESA's Board of Directors. Established in 2001, 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/networking events, and forums that enrich student life. HESA is in charge of managing officially sanctioned clubs within Harvard Extension School. Currently, there are 2 official clubs: Harvard Extension Student Environmental Club and Harvard Extension Student Management & Finance Club.
President Faust said that "the Extension School is a critical part of the University" and "students increasingly should come to see themselves as full-fledged members of not just an individual school but Harvard as a university."
The graduating class of 2016, the largest class to date, had 801 students receiving degrees. Of them, the youngest was 16 and the oldest was 70 with an average age of 36. They were nearly equally split between the genders, with 52% being male, and came from 36 countries and 42 states. Almost all, 96%, were taking classes for professional gain. Half take a single course, and half pursue a degree. The increase in online course offerings has fueled growth, and students from more than 150 countries are enrolled.
In 2000 there were 14,216 students, with the youngest in their early teens and the oldest in their late 80s. There is often a span of 60 years between the oldest and youngest students, and students as young as 11 years old have taken courses alongside those old enough to be their parents or grandparents. 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.
In the early 2000's 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. In 2018, a student from Kansas received his high school diploma and a bachelor's degree from the Extension School only a few days apart. The School changed its rules to prevent that from happening again.
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. In 2007–08, more than 2,500 international students and nearly 2,000 Harvard University employees were enrolled in classes. In 2013, students came from 118 countries and 46 states.
|*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. |
**Only aggregate numbers were reported for these years.
Upon graduation, students are eligible for membership in the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA) and the Harvard Extension Alumni Association (HEAA). Graduates also take part in the commencement ceremonies with all other schools of Harvard.
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, and in 1983 Thomas Small became the oldest student to ever earn a master's degree. 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.
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 the university's fight song and the fact that classes are taught after dark. 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.
Coat of arms
The coat of arms for the Extension School was approved in 1983. At the top of the shield the three books spelling out Veritas (Latin for "truth") 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 Harvard 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 some classes are taught at night.
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