Skip to Main Content

President and dean respond to economic downturn

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2009 - Winter


Although the university and the medical school remain strong financially, the economic downturn requires some adjustments, both President Richard C. Levin and Dean Robert J. Alpern, M.D., Ensign Professor of Medicine, cautioned recently in separate messages to faculty and staff.

The economic situation, described as the worst since the Great Depression, had reduced Yale’s endowment by $6 billion, “a decline of 25 percent since June 30, 2008,” Levin announced in December. Budget shortfalls of about $100 million are expected next year and more than $300 million by 2013-14. Nevertheless, Levin said, “$17 billion is still a very large endowment.”

“In spite of the challenges before us, we shouldn’t forget that we entered this period on a very strong footing and we remain strong,” Alpern wrote on January 23. The school has seen consistent growth in NIH funding over the past few years, as well as growth of 11 percent in clinical collections during the first half of the current fiscal year. Gifts and pledges have also been rising in recent years.

The university and the medical school, however, must tighten their belts.

Levin said that next year’s budgets will be reduced by an amount equal to 5 percent of the salaries and benefits of all non-faculty and staff, largely through attrition. Budgets for all non-salary and wage expenses will be reduced by 5 percent next year and by an additional 5 percent the following year. Employees in labor unions will receive the increases scheduled for the final year of their contracts, and non-union employees will be eligible for merit increases of up to 2 percent, up to a cap of $1,500. He urged staff and faculty to save money by spending less on outside consultants, reducing travel, consuming less paper and decreasing energy use. New building and renovation projects under construction will continue, but most new construction will be deferred, although design work will continue.

The medical school will follow these guidelines, Alpern said, while noting that its financial picture is somewhat different. The university budget draws 44 percent of its income from the endowment, but endowment income accounts for only 8 percent of the medical school’s $988.6 million budget, which comes largely from research grants and clinical income. The central administration budget, however, draws 17 percent of its revenues from endowment income. Tuition and philanthropy together account for 5 percent of the medical school’s income.

Alpern vowed to try to “protect our employees in these uncertain economic times,” while honoring commitments made in recent years.

“We will maintain our commitment to expanded financial aid,” he said, referring to a new financial aid policy that eliminates parental contributions from families making less than $100,000 per year. Recruitment of faculty and staff will continue, but hiring decisions will be considered carefully by the dean’s office and the provost’s office. Development of programs for West Campus will also continue.

“This is no time to back off from our core values and goals, and by making well-considered, strategic decisions now, we stand to do well in the future,” Alpern said. “We will continue to be a school that seeks new knowledge in the service of humanity, finds new ways of diagnosing and treating illness, and produces new leaders in science and medicine. To reach these goals, I ask all of you to help.”