Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith’s statement that graduate student admissions will be cut by 4.4 percent this year is concerning. These reductions, attributed primarily to $2 billion worth of losses in endowment value, evidences the urgency of financial security to the University’s functioning and goals. As a hint of the necessary gravity behind this move, smaller graduate admissions classes could have an impact further down the road on the undergraduate experience. The implications include the possibility of a smaller available pool of teaching fellows for courses, inciting worries among graduate students wary of potentially larger workloads and responsibilities to account for their reduced numbers. In general, the reduced range of perspective that will result from fewer such students is lamentable.
This situation serves as a reminder that Harvard’s educational mission cannot operate separately from its basic financial needs. Indeed, the latter is essential to pursuing the former. We are optimistic that the recent changes at Harvard Management Company, which include bringing its investment practices more in line with those of peer institutions, will help restore financial security and budgetary normalcy. The student body would do well to take note: Despite having the largest endowment of any university, Harvard’s money is not endless, and limits require trade-offs.
We are hopeful that Harvard’s endowment will not underperform indefinitely, and for the time being, we commend FAS for adapting to the current situation appropriately. Stubbornly attempting to maintain graduate admissions numbers could exacerbate problems down the road. Despite the unfortunate need to cut some deserving applicants, Smith’s remark about ensuring as “outstanding a student experience as possible” for current students demonstrates the administration’s commitment to honoring prior promises.
Indeed, despite its financial struggles, the University has sought to continue business as usual. Harvard’s recently announced pledge to adhere to the scheduled timeline of the Lowell House renewal through additional debt is another example of the University’s commitment to its students. Similarly, Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris told The Crimson that section sizes would not grow as a result of the budget cuts.
The University’s response to these financial problems displays a careful consideration for the balance between current and future students. While this situation is certainly a regrettable one, we must recognize that Harvard’s wealth of resources does not obviate the need for making difficult decisions. We are glad that the administration has chosen a responsible path, and hope that they continue to be flexible until Harvard’s budgetary situation improves.