Cut Costs Creatively

Kennedy School should avoid curtailing faculty hirings and keep tuition low despite losses

Despite its prominence in the realm of higher education and in the world of public policy, the Kennedy School of Government (KSG) will soon grapple with severe financial problems. Last week, Dean of the Kennedy School Joseph S. Nye announced that the school anticipates an estimated $3 million deficit—almost 3 percent of its operating budget.

Nye first made the information public during the annual “State of the School” address held at the ARCO Forum. In a subsequent interview with The Crimson, Nye blamed the school’s underperformance on the current economic situation and the expectation that after the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, its endowments will develop at a slower rate.

Though Nye has determined that the school must take steps to reduce costs, he said that these cuts will not be significant. He has indicated that the school’s Washington office will be closed, and other peripheral programs may face cutbacks. In addition, the recruitment of junior faculty members may be slowed down and student tuition may be increased.

It is not unreasonable to expect such cost-cutting while carrying a deficit. However, we do find Nye’s suggestions of a tuition hike as one possible way to address cutting costs rather troubling. Now that the economy has officially slipped into a recession, higher tuition would represent an even harsher financial blow to the many students already paying exorbitant fees.

Over the last five years, the KSG has been growing vigorously. The faculty has grown by 40 percent, and the number of academic citations awarded to faculty members increased by more than 200 percent. Clearly this expansion will not continue unabated, but the KSG must remain vigilant in preserving the institution’s priority of academic excellence. Faculty hirings should only be cut as a last resort—undoubtedly there are other areas of the budget that could be trimmed first.

The Kennedy School should be careful when cutting costs not to compromise its ability to focus on cutting-edge political issues.