The article by Pam Belluck mostly explores the ALB (undergraduate) program at the Extension School, and how some students use it as an alternative to a Harvard College degree. It stresses some positive attributes about the ALB program:
Students have access to Harvard faculty, even Nobel laureates like Roy J. Glauber, a physicist who has taught extension classes. At least 52 of the 128 credits required for the extension bachelors degree must come from courses taught by Harvard instructors. And some courses are virtually identical to those at Harvard College, professors say.But the article also gets into the perception issue -- what does "Harvard Extension School" mean to other members of the Harvard community, outsiders, and potential recruiters?
The article is right in that some ALB students are clearly interested in the Harvard name appearing on their resumes, perhaps more than what the program itself has to offer in terms of a very high-quality education taught by Harvard faculty. I hate to say it, but there are a handful of ALM candidates (Harvard Extension School's graduate degree program) who also have motives for attending which have more to do with the Harvard name than a Harvard education. And some are not as committed as I would hope. One fellow graduate student in my Chinese Emigration in Modern Times class in the Spring asked me what other classes were good for getting an "easy A" -- this student's interest seemed to be more attuned toward finding easy teachers or coursework, rather than classes which fit his academic interests or potential ALM thesis topic.
How will The New York Times' Extension School article change opinions?I think the New York Times article will reinforce the idea among the rest of the Harvard community that Extension School students are sneaking through Harvard's back door, aren't worthy of being Harvard students, or are not motivated by honest academic goals. This is not good for the majority of Extension School students who take their Harvard studies very seriously. I'll keep an eye peeled for online reaction in this regard -- and feel free to comment below if you want to add your two cents.
The blog reaction has started. Here's a sample of what I've seen so far:
"How to Debase your Brand, and How to Extend It"
... the University has taken things a step too far, marketing the courses as the Harvard experience, and even going so far as to offer a BA degree from the Extension School. Sure enough, people are obtaining their BAs, which they list as being from Harvard University, at a cost far less than they would pay at Harvard College, and with no screening by Admissions. Harvard has spent over 350 years building its brand, and now it has proceeded to dull it through this short-sighted move.
There are lots of interesting questions that might have been asked. Do more than a tiny fraction of HES students really believe that they'll be able to pass themselves off as "regular" Harvard alums when they graduate? If so, is Harvard University nodding and winking at them in order to keep the pure gravy of money and public relations that is the Extension School flowing? What's the difference, other than in name recognition, between HES and nearby Bunker Hill Community College? Between HES and some online curriculum from the University of Phoenix? Between HES and a diploma mill?
Harvard Extended Interview Series: An ALM management concentrator (Note: This interview is with the HES graduate student who left this comment, below)