Schools Prepare for Crisis

Boston area universities prepare budgets, financial aid plans for downturn

In the wake of the economic downturn, several universities in the Boston area are reevaluating their budgets, looking specifically at financial aid, construction projects, and employment. On November 10, Harvard University President Drew G. Faust emailed a letter to the faculty, students, and staff to discuss the “global economic crisis and its implications for us at Harvard.”

One week later, MIT president Susan Hockfield released a formal letter outlining the university’s future financial plans. The letter stated that although MIT must make changes, the impact would be softened by three buffers—a balanced budget, the relate stability of endowment payments, and cash reserves.

“These facts cannot fully insulate us from the chill of the markets, but they do afford us the time to make thoughtful, coordinated choices,” Hockfield stated in the letter.

Boston University has decided not to begin any new construction projects, according to university spokesman Colin D. Riley. He added that the projects for which contracts are already in place will continue to progress.

MIT has planned to temporarily stop the $90 million renovations on its W1 residence hall, according to an October 28 article on the university’s Web site.

At Harvard, Faust’s letter announced the University is still assessing how potential cuts in the budget will affect building projects, especially the development in Allston,

A central point each university stressed is its commitment to provide adequate financial aid. Tufts University is planning to either preserve current levels of financial aid or even to increase it.

“We anticipate that students and their families may be directly affected by the deteriorating economy,” wrote Tufts University Assistant Director of Public Relations Suzanne C. Miller in an e-mail. “Our planning is focused on responding to this challenge in order to minimize the impact on our primary mission of teaching and research.”

Boston University also is monitoring the impact of the economic situation on the families of potential students, Riley said. When the “ripple effects” start to appear, the university will plan accordingly, he explained.

Boston College has announced a 2-percent cut in its non-compensatory budget in order to generate an extra $2.5 million for financial aid, in addition to the $114 million distributed this year, said Boston College Director of Public Affairs Jack Dunn.

Harvard’s policies are expected to remain constant, Faust explained in the letter. Undergraduates whose families letter. Undergraduates whose families have incomes below $60,000 will continue to pay no tuition, while those with incomes below $180,000 will be expected to pay up to 10 percent of income.

Concerning employment, Boston University is implementing a “hiring freeze,” Riley said, adding that the university’s current president Robert A. Brown is the first president in the university’s history to take this type of action.

“Positions will be reexamined to see if they are critical for those departments,” Riley said.

Faust’s letter stated that Harvard will analyze compensation costs, while still recognizing that Harvard has a “responsibility that comes with being one of the largest employers in the commonwealth of Massachusetts.”