Sunday, October 18, 2009

Harvard Finances

For those who are interested in such things, Harvard's latest financial report appears to be available. Rumors have it that the report was made (widely) public in part because of a Boston Globe article, showing that Harvard was doing some unwise things with its "cash" accounts. (Our own Harry Lewis gets a quote.) That on top of previously reported news (in the financial report) that Harvard had to pay about $500 million to get out of some bad hedges on interest rates. I'm sure many will get a kick out of it.

I hope, at least, that people will make use of the information properly when discussing things Harvard. A couple of weeks ago I pointed to a truly fact-impaired Kevin Carey opinion in the Chronicle of Higher Education (that I still can't bring myself to link to). One mistake he made, which is common, is to refer to Harvard's $37 billion endowment (now about $26 billion) as though it was all for undergraduate education. In fact, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS. the "home" for undergraduates) "owns" about $11 billion of the $26 billion; the med school, business school, law school, and various other sub-organizations within Harvard all have their pieces. Also, of this $11 billion, only a fraction is in money that can be used for "general purposes"; much of it is tied to specific purposes (chairs for faculty, financial aid, libraries, etc.). Anyhow, when someone comes along and spouts off about how Harvard should spend its money, I'll have a new pointer for where to start an informed discussion.

Also, on Friday Cherry Murray, Dean of Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, had an all-hands meeting, where naturally the topic of SEAS finances was part of what was addressed. (The budget for SEAS is independent of FAS, approximately.) While we're not in great shape, we appear to be somewhat better off, as less of our budget comes from the endowment distribution, and we've had a bit of a buildup in our reserves the last few years that will help us through the next few. This should mean that SEAS will be (slowly) hiring again soon; I'm hoping that computer science and/or applied mathematics will be areas where we'll be advertising for new faculty.

1 comment:

lewis said...

The report is available here. It was released Friday afternoon (no doubt to be sure to catch that big Saturday morning new cycle). The Globe story was precipitated by the release, not vice versa.