As a high school junior, Anne Marie Urban spent seven weeks at a summer program at Harvard, receiving recommendations from professors there that she’s sure helped her get into the University of Chicago.
The lure of Harvard endorsements comes with a hefty price tag: $10,490 for the program. It’s much the same at other elite colleges, where summer courses for high school students have become a lucrative business.
While the colleges say they help prepare students for the transition to university, critics charge they give false hope of gaining admission, are unfair to poor students who can’t attend and add to the debt burden by depleting parents’ savings.
“A lot of these programs really prey on the anxiety of parents about getting kids into selective colleges,” said Elizabeth Morgan, director of external relations at the National College Access Network in Washington. “It’s a revenue strategy. It’s available to those who can afford it.”