C&B Notes

Elite Universities’ Evolution

Universities and colleges continue to be re-shaped by both (i) economic stresses, and (ii) longer-term, more fundamental changes to the legacy secondary education model.  This article highlights both of these trends and shares how the dedication of some schools to providing free content online is leading to a new posture on openness even for offline print journals:

Many universities face shaky finances because of declining state aid and weakened returns on endowments.  At Harvard — and some of its Ivy League peers — the recession has lingered because of an unusually heavy dependency on their endowments for operating income.  Harvard’s $32 billion endowment is up from its 2009 drop to $26 billion, but still off its pre-recession 2008 value of $36.9 billion.  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.  “There was a definite change in mentality over there…  there was a sort of sky-is-the-limit attitude but now they are taking much more cautious approach,” says Gerald Autler, a senior project manager for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, a public agency which works with colleges on building projects and expansion.

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Harvard is also changing its philosophy on owning books.  The goal: Provide access to them rather than collecting each one, which can lead to costs for storage and preservation, a 2009 Harvard task-force report said.  The library will extend partnerships to borrow from other libraries, and further digitize its own collection so it can share with others.  The university is finding .  “Move the prestige to open access,” a memo said.