Students returning to campus this month are coming back to a much a slimmer Stanford. The university's $17.2 billion endowment fund has seen its worst hit in the school's history. It's a reminder that the recession has not spared the academic world.
Only a year ago, investment income provided 29 percent of Stanford's budget revenue, more than research grants or tuition. As the recession dragged down its portfolio, there had to be serious belt-tightening with one exception.
"Instruction and research and the scholarly pursuits of the university have all been preserved in this process," said Stanford senior communications official Lisa Lapin.
Stanford's endowment is projected to take a 30 percent hit this year, going from $17.2 billion last year to an estimated $12 billion this year.
Each of the schools, starting with the Graduate School of Business, cut back on staff. Other steps taken included freezing graduate aid funding, eliminating teaching assistants, closing the physics library, and cancelling orders for books, journals and subscriptions.
Returning sophomore Cody Sam says the layoffs and cutbacks have been mostly invisible.
"They kept intact things like financial aid, so I think, like the big programs are still there," said Sam, who does not feel it has hurt his academic experience.
Over $1 billion in construction projects have been postponed. Salaries have been frozen and travel has been curbed.
"Institutions innovate, and I think this is an opportunity for educational institutions to innovate and find better ways to manage their finances," said business graduate student Sunesar Dutta.
The bulk of the layoffs have happened gradually over six months. Some employees took an enhanced severance package to retire early. Sixty more employees are already on notice and will wrap up their jobs by the end of the year.
Staff members staying on see a commitment not to hurt the classroom experience.
"I know that the university remains committed to keeping the quality of education in the classroom both for graduate students and for undergraduate students intact," said law school staff member Octavio Gonzalez.
Stanford is hoping the painful cuts will help lead to a turnaround.
As bad as it sounds for Stanford, it has been much for the CSU and UC systems where fees have been raised and staff cuts have been much deeper.