The most coveted and financed university in the United States has instituted a salary and hiring freeze and other belt-tightening measures in the wake of economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Harvard University has canceled or deferred discretionary spending, according to an email sent to the school community on April 13.
The university is considering deferring all capital projects as well, stated in the email signed by President Lawrence S. Bacow, Executive Vice President Katherine N. Lapp, and Provost Alan M. Garber.
“Harvard, like other universities around the world, will not be spared the economic consequences of the pandemic,” the email stated, calling the effects of COVID-19 “disorienting, even dizzying.”
“We must look for more cost-efficient ways to deliver our essential services. This may entail schools or administrative units working together to avoid duplication of effort,” the officials wrote.
“We will need everyone’s best thinking on how we can thrive in an environment where resources are likely to be constrained for some time to come. We will be setting up a website to solicit your ideas, and we welcome your best thinking.”
Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, consistently ranks at the top of lists of the world’s most desired universities. Harvard College — the system’s undergraduate school — boasted an admissions rate of 5.3%, or roughly 2,000 students among the more than 43,000 who applied to be in the class of 2023. (Sixty-five were admitted from the waitlist.)
Twelve percent of the student body is international, according to the university's website.
“Our major sources of revenue — tuition, the endowment, executive and continuing education, philanthropy, and research support — are threatened, and we expect to see increased demand for financial aid as the economic fallout from the pandemic hits family budgets,” the email stated.
“We have expended substantial unbudgeted resources to assist students moving off campus, and we have extended support to our workers who have seen their jobs displaced. We also have tried to be good neighbors in responding to requests for assistance from the Commonwealth as well as Cambridge and Boston,” the email stated.
“Although we entered this crisis in a position of relative financial strength, our resources are already stretched. If we are to preserve our core mission of teaching and scholarship, we face difficult, even painful, decisions in the days ahead.”
Harvard — like a handful of other Ivy League, or long-established and vaunted universities in the U.S. — is a needs-blind institution that admits students on merit and provides financial aid.
The university estimates annual tuition and fees for a student are $72,300, and its financial aid package — Harvard, federal and outside scholarships — accounts for $56,550 of those costs. Parents are expected to contribute $12,450, and students, $2,150.
“No American College is More Affordable,” the university website states.
Bacow, Lapp and Garber said they were each taking a 25% reduction in salary.
“Other senior leadership of the university — including all school deans, vice presidents, and vice provosts — are responding by either reducing their salaries or contributing to a new fund that we are establishing in partnership with the Harvard University Employees Credit Union.”