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Small Colleges' Financial Woes Are Also Affecting Harvard

By Thomas W. Janes

Budgetary retrenchments such as an increase in student-faculty ratios and staff cutbacks in non-academic positions have stabilized the financial positions of the nation's small private colleges, a recently released report by the Association of American Colleges shows.

Although the findings were based on a survey of only 100 small private colleges, and Harvard and other large research universities were not included in the survey, the study shows that many of the fiscal problems besetting the small colleges are also affecting Harvard.

Faculty, Enrollment Increase

The study found that in the past five years a 5 per cent increase in the number of faculty members was offset by an increase in enrollment of 8 per cent.

At the same time the number of non academic positions, such as custodial and janatorial services, have dropped by 9 per cent.

The report also shows that because of cutbacks in government aid the small schools are relying more than ever on tuition increases and private donations to balance their budgets.

In addition, 27 of the institutions surveyed were in serious financial straits and the report said "if recent trends in these institutions are not corrected the odds against their survival are formidable."

Hale Champion, financial vice president, said yesterday that the study of the small private colleges is not applicable to Harvard because "in a large university there is a whole different set of financial problems."

But at Harvard the drop in foundation and government support in recent years has meant that student fees are the single most important source of income to the University for the second straight year.

This year's Treasurer's report to the Board of Overseers says that "alumni gifts were particularly important in sustaining an overall level of capital gifts." While alumni donations totaled 38 per cent of the 1973-74 gifts to capital, they represented 57 per cent of the total in 1974-75.

While tuition increases in past years have been directly tied to the rate of inflation, Champion said yesterday that in the future the one area where the University is most able to increase its income to "handle the cost of doing business is in tuition."

Elden T. Smith, spokesman for the Association of American Colleges in Washington, said yesterday that the study raises many questions regarding "the detrimental effect budgetary cutbacks can have in higher education."

"No one is certain at what point deferring maintenance and cutting back faculty offerings ultimately has a damaging effect on colleges," Smith added.

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