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Harvard Sees Steep Decline in Revenue

In this Dec. 5, 2019 photo, people walk near an entrance to a building at Harvard Law School, in Cambridge, Mass.

Harvard University lost $10 million in operating expenses at the end of the fiscal year in September, compared with a $308 million surplus last year.

Revenue declined $138 million, mostly in the final quarter of the fiscal year that ended the last day of June 2020, according to the University’s Annual Financial Report.

Refunds costly

The biggest toll was from refunding student room and board fees — $32 million — when students were sent home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Total student revenue decreased by 11% to $1.1 billion.

Harvard also lost revenue from its lucrative executive education programs in which the university earned $500 million in revenue, or 9% of its profit. Executive programs include short- and long-term leadership and business programs in the school’s vaunted business school.

“The loss would have been far greater without the implementation of immediate cost control efforts, including cuts in discretionary spending, a freeze in new hires and raises, no bonuses or overtime work, voluntary salary cuts by senior leadership, and reduced capital spending,” Vice President for Finance Thomas J. Hollister and Treasurer Paul J. Finnegan wrote in the report.

Salary and hiring freeze

In April, the university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, instituted a salary and hiring freeze and other belt-tightening measures in the wake of economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It canceled or deferred discretionary spending, according to an email sent to the school community on April 13.

“Harvard, like other universities around the world, will not be spared the economic consequences of the pandemic,” said an email signed by President Lawrence S. Bacow, Executive Vice President Katherine N. Lapp and Provost Alan M. Garber.

The April email called the financial effects of COVID-19 “disorienting, even dizzying.”

Financial aid increased

On a bright note, the financial report stated that the university increased its financial aid to students by 5% to $645 million in scholarships.

Also, while gifts and donations, which account for 46% of its endowment, were down 13%, assets were up.

Harvard Management Company increased assets by $893 million to $50.2 billion as of June 30, 2020.

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Read the full story here. (August 2023)

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