Operation Scrooge


It was more like an invasion by old Scrooge than a visit from Saint Nick last week, as Harvard stuffed administrators' stockings with the 1977-78 financial report to the Board of Overseers.

The 90-page assessment of the University's financial picture brought anything but good tidings for the holidays. Harvard is suffering from the ill side-effects of inflation, which "continued to be the major financial problem facing Harvard," the report notes.

Amid declining investment markets and federal belt-tightening maneuvers, the endowment's market value slipped back to $1.39 billion, a $60 million drop. Tuition, room and board fees have continued to climb, gradually assuming more and more of the total percentage of income to the University.

Since 1968, total fees have more than doubled--and as the University grows gradually more dependent on the student revenue, administrative anxiety increases. This year's report bore the warning that "increases of this magnitude cannot continue without significantly affecting the composition" of Harvard's student body.

Although income from the federal government and from research and training contracts and grants increased 10.8 per cent in 1977-78--the first time in years the increase has exceeded the inflation rate--Harvard officials do not expect the windfall to last long.


Thomas O'Brien, financial vice president, said last week that with the Carter administration pursuing a tight budget, it is unlikely federal support would "even be able to match the inflation rate" in the year ahead.

Now, while Harvard waits for Washington to decide how it will apply its wage and price guidelines to universities, the 1979-80 budget hangs in the balance.

If, as most officials suspect, the government is flexible, allowing schools to raise fees by more than the accepted federal price standard, tuition is sure to take another big jump.

But, if Washington holds the line, department chairmen may return to Cambridge to find a late present waiting under their trees--a note that says, "Cut your budget."