Fiscal Restraint

June 1, 2009

In a letter sent to members of the Duke community in early March, President Richard H. Brodhead enumerated adjustments the university will make in the coming months in response to a contracting economy.

Citing a 20 percent decline in the university's endowment in late 2008, and a concurrent decline in philanthropic giving, Brodhead acknowledged that Duke will have to operate from a smaller financial base.

Not all the news was bad: Duke completed a series of major construction projects before the crisis hit, including additions to the law and business schools and renovations to Few Quad. The board of trustees also approved a plan to use accumulated reserve funds to help ease the transition to a smaller budget.

The commitment to need-blind admissions remains unchanged, and funding for graduate and professional student aid and stipends will see modest increases, Brodhead wrote. Duke will continue to meet the full demonstrated need for all students, and faculty hiring will continue, though at a slower pace than in previous years.

Yet, because of the university's diffuse management system, some departments or schools will be subject to tighter constraints than others.

All areas of university administration will be asked to do some belt-tightening by cutting back on travel and other expenses as Duke trims $125 million from its budget in the next several years.

No capital projects, like the proposed New Campus, will begin until funding can be identified and secured, and salary increases will be limited or, for higher-paid employees, eliminated altogether.

Brodhead noted that "Duke has no choice as to whether or not to reduce its expense base" in the ever-deepening recession.

But, he added that the university's "special strength lies in its use of intelligence to devise solutions to real-world problems. Now is the time to apply this skill to our own institutional challenge."