How Prestige Is Harvard Extension?

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by sshuang, Mar 3, 2009.

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  1. sshuang

    sshuang New Member

    During the weekend, I got into a big argument with my wife.
    I suggested that Harvard Extension might be an alternative for high school graduates who couldn't get into Harvard. She felt that the Extension in general is just a big joke. Any thought?
  2. Go_Fishy

    Go_Fishy New Member

    No, Harvard couldn't afford offering low-quality education. HEX is the continuing education branch of the university and is probably well worth the money. However, many people perceive it as a cheap trick to get Harvard on your resume.

    I would never go there. It would feel like putting a Ferrari symbol on my Toyota Prius. Is the Prius a great car? Sure, but it's not a Ferrari, and people will make fun of me.
  3. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    I think if your wife thinks that distance learning from Harvard is a "joke" then I have to assume she has a unreasonable bias against distance learning that no sensible counter-argument can overcome.

  4. TCord1964

    TCord1964 New Member

    I don't consider HEX to be a joke, but this is a great analogy.
  5. swisha2k

    swisha2k New Member

    If it meets the need of a specific individual then it is by no means a "big joke".
  6. recruiting

    recruiting Member

    Sounds about right Steve..
  7. Gin Ichimaru

    Gin Ichimaru New Member

  8. BlueMason

    BlueMason Audaces fortuna juvat

    Perhaps she should check out the requirements and course load before making a blanket statement....

    Steve - nicely put.
  9. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    If, as the thread title suggests, the motive for enrolling in Harvard Extension is simply the opportunity to flaunt the Harvard name, then I agree with your wife.

    I don't really think of Harvard Extension as being any more prestigious than San Francisco State. They are both relatively unselective places that make their living offering reasonably good higher education to the broader community.

    If somebody wants to enroll in Harvard Extension because they actually like its classes and programs and not just the because of the snob-appeal of the university's name, then I don't think that's a joke at all. It might be an excellent choice.

    But your wife is right that a prospective student who is trying to get into a top-tier prestige program and is rejected at Harvard shouldn't divert into Harvard Extension. That's not what HEX is and not what it's for. Applicants should continue working down the list of selective programs until they start getting acceptance letters.

    UC Berkeley has a very elaborate extension division, you know. They have an extension center on Broadway in Redwood City that's known for the large number of fairly sophisticated computer classes that it offers. Nobody thinks of it as a joke. People like it. Many Silicon Valley workers take classes there to stay current. But people might laugh at the idea of choosing it as an alternative to studying at UC Berkeley proper. Of course, Berkeley extension doesn't offer any degrees, just continuing education.
  10. Arch23

    Arch23 New Member

    The difference is, a Toyota is not a Ferrari, but a degree from Harvard Extension IS a full-fledged Harvard degree. Perception of prestige is just that: perception -- HEX might have the prestige, or not. But it doesn't change the fact that the degree is authentically, legally Harvard as any other Harvard degree.
  11. renzo

    renzo New Member

    Both of my uncles went to Harvard extension. They both ended up doing their doctorates at Harvard University. Till this day, they say, if they had not when to Harvard Extension and met all of the Harvard professors and used all of the Harvard facilities, they would not have gotten into such prestigious doctorate programs. They are both top researchers there.

    I think it's only a joke to someone who can't stand other people's successes. Sometimes, you f-up in life and you need a second chance to prove yourself. Harvard Extension offers that, joke or no joke.

    About the Ferrari and Prius comparison, I think it more like buying a Mercedes (500 series being Harvard U) and (200 series being a Harvard Extension.) Listen, you still got a Mercedes. People still drive the 200 series and then there are people that still complain.

    Also, I don't think people go to Harvard Extension just to be snobs or act like snobs. They want to attend because they want to attend one the best universities in the world and hopefully they have something to add on as intellectuals. It's no walk in the park. Anybody can attend HEX but if you look at how many graduate at the Haavaard Yaaard ceremony (boston acccent). If it were that easy, we would all meeting up at Harvard and as the snobs would say........... "Hear old chap, would you fancy a cup of tea" and I would say, "splendid, one cream, two sugars." (Upperclassman accent).
  12. Go_Fishy

    Go_Fishy New Member

    Since prestige is a social construct, perception is reality. It doesn't matter if the quality of the program is equal to a regular Harvard program as long as people perceive the two as different.

    Mind you, I'm not one of the people calling HEX a joke. What I am saying is, I would only attend Harvard or any Ivy League school because of their prestige and all the benefits prestige brings about. HEX does not offer the same prestige and may even viewed negatively, so what's the point? There are hundreds of wonderful schools out there that may suit my needs better.

    No doubt. Getting into an Ivy League school for undergraduate does not mean someone is in any way special; what it shows is that this person has been able to play according to the rules of the system. If that is good or bad, and if this says anything about a 17-year old is probably hard to decide...

    Yeah but see, my Prius-analogy also alludes to the car's innovation and cost-effectiveness, which the Mercedes lacks. ;)
  13. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member

    If your wife is attempting to convey the idea that Harvard Extension School is not as prestigious as Harvard College or Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, then she's right about that. But I would not go so far as to say that Harvard Extension is a joke. If you are trying to convey the idea that an ALB or ALM from Harvard Extension School is a good "back door" by which to get eventual admission to the PhD program of Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, I think you might be right. The frequently asked questions page of Harvard Extension's ALB program indicates that Harvard University is among the graduate schools to which Harvard Extension ALB grads have gained admission and that Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Business School, Harvard Divinity School, and Harvard Graduate School of Education are among the graduate schools to which Harvard Extension ALM grads have gained admission.
  14. Petedude

    Petedude New Member

    Hopping on the train a little late here, but I'm thinking this would be more like slapping a Lexus symbol on your Toyota than slapping on a Ferrari symbol.
  15. Arch23

    Arch23 New Member

    What I was commenting on was the analogy, not whether you think it's a joke. A Toyota is not a Ferrari, but Harvard Extension is Harvard. And prestige doesn't change the object. For people who'd rather take on the "image" and be guided by it rather than by FACT, of course it's the prestige that matters, and that's fine (as they say, "whatever floats your boat"). But that still doesn't make the analogy correct.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 4, 2009
  16. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    My 2008 US News 'Americas' Best Colleges' tells me that Harvard accepts just 9% if its undergraduate applicants. 95% of these were in the top 10% of their high-school class. 75% of them had composite SATs of 1390 or above. (And many of the 25% who didn't were probably special admits, connected children of wealthy donors or powerful government and business figures.)

    The thesis of this thread is that enrolling in Harvard Extension is a good way for individuals who can't satisfy Harvard's famed selectivity to nevertheless participate in Harvard prestige.

    I'm not persuaded by those who insist that it's all Harvard and that Harvard is Harvard. It's two radically different student populations. One is among the most highly selected in the United States, the other is pretty much anyone who applies.

    I don't have anything against part-time students who attended less-selective programs. I'm one of them, for heaven's sake. There's definitely something to be said for the kind of school that brings credible higher education to the broader community. I really like San Jose State's innovative joint city-university library. Many Silicon Valley workers take SJSU engineering classes at night to stay current on new developments. The CSUs even offer free enrollment to people over 60.

    It's a... Prius kind of educational role. Not a sexy red Italian sportscar that turns beautiful young heads, but much more efficient and probably more socially responsible.

    I think that if a prospective student is trying to get into an prestige program, then he or she needs to work their way down the food-chain until they start getting acceptance letters. Somebody who doesn't make the cut at Harvard might still get into UCLA, which accepts 26% of its applicants and where 75% of admits have SATs above 1180. Not as stratospheric as Harvard perhaps, but UCLA still has international name recognition and tremendous clout in the Los Angeles area. UCLA has a way better basketball team than Harvard and its researchers still manage to win the occasional Nobel prize.

    It's still a fast sports car, even if it isn't the six-figure Italian one.

    If I was hiring and an application with a Harvard Extension degree came by my desk, I'd be interested because I'm into DL and adult continuing education generally. I might be impressed by the applicant's determination and effort.

    But... if I sensed that the applicant was trying to be a free-rider on Harvard's legendary selectivity in order to cut ahead of 'lesser' applicants, then I'd probably take a dim view. I'd worry about the individual's veracity and about possible attitude problems with other employees.

    A Prius has many advantages, but if people try to race one, then they will probably lose.
  17. -kevin-

    -kevin- Resident Redneck

    I think that using an open admissions certificate from a prominent school as a resume booster is artificial. Little benefit, if any, will be derived. Hiring officials do not look at resumes in a vacuum. Seeing the resume as a whole, that one certificate is not sufficient to be considered the applicant's body of work. Adding a degree, however, from a prominent school might add some weight if the degree is higher academically. For example, having a Charter Oak BA followed by a Duke MBA. I would view this scenario as someone who probably couldn't afford a competitive school intitially but through performance was able to obtain entry into a well ranked school, demonstrating some attributes that might serve the potential employer well.

    While Harvard Extension is open admissions, completing the degree is a significiant accomplishment, so I wouldn't care about a few courses completed at HE but I would care if the individual completed the program.

    In my opinion, education should compliment, not replace, experience on a resume.
  18. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    Harvard University's Extension College and Summer School are open enrollment for anyone who pays tuition. You can take classes at a distance or on campus- that's a professional development model. Does anyone talk about prestige of a CE course at Cornell? Yes, but always in a positive regard.

    The master's degree program isn't open enrollment, but if you meet the requirements, I doubt you'd be turned down. That said, open enrollment isn't open graduation. If you are going after the master's degree, you still have to pass your 9 courses with a B or better, 4 or more of them in person on campus, and complete a publishable thesis using empirical research that takes about 1 year. The completion rate is very very low- I think I read <1% of initial course takers are degree completers, and roughly 50% of enrolled degree students graduate. (the thesis being the brick wall)

    So, in my opinion, the prestige of taking a HES course? Equal to the prestige of taking any professional development course- depends on who taught it and where. Completing the ALM degree? Very commendable. The exit requirements are equal or greater than any master's degree out there.

    Additionally, no less than 8 of the HES master's courses must be taken with Harvard instructors. The individual student decides if 8/9, or 9/9 classes are taken with Harvard instructors. So, in that respect, there are variabilities as to "how Harvard" it is, but at a minimum, it's 88%. (the 10th class isn't a class, it's the thesis- you have a thesis director who is a Harvard professor bringing everyone up to a minimum of 90% instruction by Harvard Professors.) Having class with non-Harvard professor is unlikely, however, there are non-Harvard instructors in all Harvard colleges- each degree has a % requirement)

    Simply, if you see a course that is interesting to you, take it! Your personal motives for choosing one school over another are private, and frankly, no one's business.

    I love how people jump over the fact that most distance-acquired degrees offered through a large university come through the extension/virtual/professional/or a continuing education college at the university. You don't see intense threads debating how it's "not really Boston University" or "not really University of Illinois" when you talk about these degrees. This seems to be that only Harvard's Extension College draws such strong responses.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 4, 2009
  19. Go_Fishy

    Go_Fishy New Member

    Forgive me, but this is quite a positivist view. I would argue that because we generate meaning and reality through our societal interaction, prestige is just as real as a rock, a mathematical equation or gravity. I guarantee you that the overwhelming majority of students attends Harvard for reasons of prestige, legacy, and networks. The quality of education may be excellent, but there are excellent teachers and curricula in many schools around the world. To most of us, it does not make a difference whether our instructor has 50 or 100 publications as long as she/he is knowledgeable and passionate - at least not a difference that would justify a the time and money commitment that Harvard requires.

    Bottom line: Harvard minus prestige is not Harvard anymore, and that's why my Prius analogy is perfectly adequate. :)
  20. DBA_Curious

    DBA_Curious New Member

    I think it's an interesting phenomenon on this board regarding how into the finer details of educational offerings we are.

    I'm willing to bet $$$ that the average person would see Master of Liberal Studies in blah blah blah from HARVARD UNIVERSITY on a resume and think "Wow, Harvard!"

    These notions of whether the extension school has the same prestige as the regular school are probably only widely discussed here and in Harvard's immediate region. Across the US as a whole, I doubt you'd raise an eyebrow. This is a country, after all, that values universities based on their sports team as much as their offerings and, in which it has been reported that 50% of resumes contain inaccuracies or deliberate fallacies.

    So my take on this is as follows - if you see a program at Harvard you like, go for it. You're going to benefit from the Harvard name in ways others are either underplaying or just not understanding.

    All the other stuff is just noise to signal in my opinion.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 4, 2009
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