While I think through my replies to several very interesting and important questions posed by readers in response to my invitation to ask me anything, I will just pass along a little calculation I made a few moments ago with the aid of a Consumer Price Index Calculator I found on-line.
I started at Harvard as a Freshman in 1950. I remember the tuition as $400 that year, but my classmate, friend, colleague, and one-time apartment mate Charles Parsons recalls it as $600, and in matters of this sort, I learned six decades ago, Charles is always right. The CPI Calculator tells me that $600 in 1950 is the equivalent of a tad less than $6,000 today -- a ten-fold devaluation. But Harvard's tuition this year is roughly $45,000, which is seven and a half times as much as a mere cost-of-living adjustment would explain.
Is Harvard's education today seven and a half times better than the education I received? I can assure you the answer is "No."
Indeed, is it as good? I will pass on that question, but I am quite certain it is no better.
Why does Harvard charge an extra $39,000 in 2015-16? There really is only one possible answer: Because it can. It gives one pause.