With the 2001 fiscal year an unkind one for most university endowments, institutions across the country face the realization that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks may have ended the era of flourishing endowments and university growth.
In the aftermath of the attacks, an already shaky economy has gone further downhill. As a result, institutions like Cornell and the University of California system have already announced hiring freezes.
At Cornell, the freeze only affects non-academic positions so far.
“We think it’s desirable to take a pause in which we can look carefully at our administrative positions and see if we can generate some additional efficiencies,” said Henrik Dullea, Cornell’s vice president for university relations. “[We are] recognizing that the external funding environment for Cornell and many other universities across the nation have some very real problems at the moment.”
Despite the downturn in university endowments across the nation, Yale’s Investments Office managed to grow the endowment last year from $10.1 billion to $10.7 billion — a 6 percent increase. Yale’s endowment had the largest growth of the top 25 endowments in the nation, while Harvard’s endowment lost $800 million dollars.
Most University officials agreed that Yale has not suffered any serious economic consequences in the short term as a result of the Sept. 11 crisis, and therefore that no immediate budget cuts will be necessary.
But if the economy continues to weaken, the long-term consequences will eventually take a toll on Yale, Vice President for Finance and Administration Robert Culver said.
Culver emphasized that the University must continue to monitor its risks by carefully observing investments, grants, contracts and endowment spending.
“We have to manage those [risks] to keep an equilibrium between our income and expenses,” Culver said.
California Gov. Gray Davis prohibited all state agencies from hiring new employees in the aftermath of Sept. 11. Public universities must try to comply with the executive order.
“The University of California and the California State University System are requested to comply with the provisions of this Executive Order,” Davis wrote in the Oct. 23 order. “Participation, however, should be limited to a level that will not interfere with meeting their educational mission.”
Cornell, which saw its endowment decline 7.8 percent in the last fiscal year, announced the hiring freeze only for administrative positions. Cornell receives some funding from the state of New York for four of its component colleges, and since New York has been particularly hard hit by terrorism Cornell may lose $4 to $6 million dollars in state funding, Henrik said.
As a result of these considerations, Cornell President Hunter Rawlings announced that Cornell will review the university’s non-academic staffing requirements.
“When you look at the national economy in terms of the general slowdown that was experienced prior to Sept. 11 [and] the impact of Sept. 11 on the New York state revenues, the president made the decision that, rather than wait for news from Albany, we should act now to begin this review process,” Henrik said.