The economy is so bad that even Harvard is having to cut costs these days. The Wall Street Journal reports that, after the recession lowered the university’s endowment by nearly $5 billion, it has been putting a number of projects on hold to save cash.At first, the cuts were skin-deep ones, limited to postponing construction projects and laying off non-faculty staff. Now the cuts are nearing the bone, including aid programs and even Harvard’s impressive library system:
Harvard is spending again in some areas, and financial aid to students has risen substantially since 2008. But a new awareness has taken root that resources are not as bountiful as they once were. “Limitations have become much more real,” said Harvard Provost Alan Garber.The university is restructuring and consolidating its library system and has told faculty that subscriptions to academic journals, some costing as much as $40,000 a year, are “financially untenable.”
Harvard’s approach to academic journals is particularly interesting. The cost of scholarly journals, as Via Meadia has noted before, is really out of control—so bad that even the stewards of America’s largest private university endowment are finally noticing. In an attempt to break expensive journals’ stranglehold on the library budget, Harvard is trying a new approach:
The university is finding it “increasingly painful” to manage academic-journal subscriptions, which annually cost it about $3.75 million, Mr. Garber said.In a move watched throughout academia, Harvard in April urged its faculty members to publish in open-access journals. “Move the prestige to open access,” a memo said.
This is a constructive step. If Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and other prestigious universities take the lead in reforming wasteful academic practices of all kinds, it will make it easier for the rest of the nation’s universities, where budget pressures are often even greater, to follow suit, helping put U.S. higher education on a more sustainable footing across the board.Adaptability is America’s key strength and in this tumultuous century our ability to innovate in the face of change is a bigger advantage than ever. It’s good to see that Harvard hasn’t forgotten what this is about.