Harvard Flip Flops on Federal Coronavirus Relief Money, Won’t Take It

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2020/04/22/harvard-flip-flops-on-federal-coronavirus-relief-money-wont-take-it/

Harvard University says it will not take about $8.6 million through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

The announcement, which the university made Wednesday, April 22, is the third position the world’s richest university has taken on the federal grant money in a week.

On Wednesday, April 15, The Harvard Crimson reported that Harvard expected to receive $8,655,748, of which at least half ($4,327,874) was supposed to be used “for emergency financial aid grants to students.”

The news drew widespread criticism because of Harvard’s vast endowment.

Harvard’s endowment stood at about $41 billion last year, before the coronavirus emergency hit, and is now estimated at somewhere in the mid-to-high 30s of billions of dollars.

On Tuesday, April 21, Harvard announced under pressure that the whole amount of the university’s allocation of federal coronavirus funds would go to financial aid for students, according to The Harvard Crimson.

But later that same day President Donald Trump said during a press conference that Harvard would give all the money back.

“Harvard’s going to pay back the money. And they shouldn’t be taking it,” Trump said Tuesday, April 21. “So Harvard’s going to. You have a number of ‘em. I’m not going to mention any other names. But when I saw Harvard. They have one of the largest endowments anywhere in the country – maybe in the world, I guess. And they’re going to pay back that money. They shouldn’t have taken it.”

Several members of Congress have also heavily criticized Harvard in recent days.

In the late afternoon of Wednesday, April 22, Harvard announced it won’t take the money.

The university in a written statement said Harvard “did not apply for this support, nor has it requested, received, or accessed these funds.”

“We have previously said that Harvard, like other institutions, will face significant financial challenges due to the pandemic and economic crisis it has caused,” the university said Wednesday. “We are also concerned however, that the intense focus by politicians and others on Harvard in connection with this program may undermine participation in a relief effort that Congress created and the President signed into law for the purpose of helping students and institutions whose financial challenges in the coming months may be most severe. As a result of this, and the evolving guidance being issued around use of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, Harvard has decided not to seek or accept the funds allocated to it by statute.”

Harvard suggested that the federal funds originally expected to go to Harvard be spent instead on other colleges in the state that need it more.

“While we understand any reallocation of these resources is a matter for the Department of Education, we hope that special consideration will be given to Massachusetts institutions that are struggling to serve their communities and meet the needs of their students through these difficult and challenging times,” the university said.

While Harvard is often needled for its vast endowment – which is more than one-third larger than the next richest university in the country – Harvard officials have been feeling the pinch.

Thomas J. Hollister, vice president for finance and chief financial officer for Harvard University, told The Harvard Crimson last week that Harvard isn’t as rich as it might appear, in part because many of its gifts come with strings attached and because the endowment must be husbanded for future generations.

“Maybe there was a time when Harvard had unlimited wealth but it is not true today,” Hollister said, according to The Harvard Crimson. “Harvard is in the well-resourced category of universities, but if you actually divide the Harvard endowment per student or per faculty member, there are wealthier institutions in the country.”