Faust: Harvard may cut some programs

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Even Harvard is vulnerable to the effects of the current economic turmoil.

Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust said Monday that the university will scrutinize its budget in an attempt to cut spending, suggesting that it may have to cut some programs.

“Our own economic landscape has been significantly altered,” Faust wrote in an e-mail to faculty, staff and students.

Harvard is well-known for having the largest endowment of any American university, at $36.9 billion in September, according to the New York Times. Faust did not specify how much the endowment has fallen since then, though she did say that the Moody’s Investors Service rating recently projected a 30 percent decrease in university endowments during this fiscal year.

“While we can hope that markets will improve, we need to be prepared to absorb unprecedented endowment losses and plan for a period of greater financial constraint,” she wrote.

But Faust also said Harvard remains committed to keeping its education affordable and that no changes to financial aid are planned. Among American universities, Harvard has one of the most generous financial aid packages, promising that students whose families make less than $180,000 will pay no more than approximately 10 percent of their income.

“In times like these we want to keep (tuition) increases moderate,” she said in the e-mail.

Though Faust did not mention specific cuts to any program, she did say Harvard would examine the “phasing and development” of expanding its facilities in the Boston neighborhood of Allston.

Harvard’s announcement comes as the latest indicator of mounting financial struggles among colleges and universities. Brown announced a temporary hiring freeze for administrators and staff last week, and Dartmouth, Cornell, Boston and Tufts universities have all announced similar plans.

Dartmouth’s endowment lost $220 million between July 1 and September 30, its student newspaper, the Dartmouth, reported yesterday. The college will focus on reducing expenses to cover the shortfall, rather than decreasing programs or financial aid, the newspaper reported.

Cornell has instituted a 90-day construction freeze and a temporary outside hiring pause, and is conducting a university-wide review to cut costs, the Cornell Daily Sun reported Oct. 30.

Tufts, whose endowment is on the low end of schools that offer need-blind admission, may have to rescind that policy for the coming year amid concerns that demand for aid will skyrocket, even though it has already suspended some capital projects and increased its aid budget, the New York Times reported Friday.

Boston University was among the first schools to react to the economic downturn, announcing a hiring freeze and suspending construction projects that had not yet begun at the end of September, the Boston Globe reported.

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