Even the most venerable entities are not immune to economic adversity.

From American Express to Wynn Resorts, drastic action has been taken to ensure survival. The financial firestorm has scorched America’s oldest educational institution: Harvard Universityharvard-logoIn a bold move designed to ensure its fiscal survival, Harvard University today announced that it is selling it’s campus and going entirely online.

Billionaire businessman and 1965 Harvard Business School alumnus Robert K. Kraft purchased the 308 acre campus for an undisclosed sum. Kraft will develop the land into a massive commercial and residential complex in the heart of Cambridge, MA named “Harvard ‘s 100 Yards.”

“This was the most economically viable option;  we will save millions of dollars in toilet paper alone!” said Harvard President Dr. Drew G. Faust.

The school has experience with online learning through its Extension School and development of edX, but will develop a proprietary instructional platform for this new venture: Fully Online Optimized Learning System (FOOLS). In addition to robust learning tools, FOOLS will integrate several interactive features, including a virtual classroom environment similar to Second Life.

“We will miss our beautiful campus, but I am sure it will be equally as invigorating sending instant messages to each other,” Faust added. “L-O-L as they say!”

The change comes at a time of unusual fiscal concern at the historic campus. The university’s $36.9 billion endowment recently suffered losses of at least 22% (estimated at $8 billion) and projections anticipate a further decline. Insiders fear the loss could be even higher once real estate and private equity declines are considered.

AOL founder Steve Case has volunteered to produce thousands of CD-ROMs containing the systems operating system. Nobody expects to use them for anything but improvised coasters, yet Case insists.

Internet raconteur Philip J. “Pud” Kaplan will ease the transition by creating a “deadpool” game in which students can bet which classmate will fail next. Likewise, Facebook founder and former Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg will personally design an application to virtually recreate the social scene at the university.

Loic Le Meur and Gary Vaynerchuk will provide a continuous supply of French wine and cheese to the developers, faculty, staff and students during the transition. Social media expert Chris Brogan has also been hired to provide strategic vision while Loren Feldman will produce daily video updates of the technical development using puppets. Shel Israel and Robert Scoble will document the historic transition on Twitter.

“These people are all dopes,” Feldman groaned when informed of the news. “They should have asked me for my opinion since it is always the right one!”

To address any potential psychological concerns Dr. Phil and Dr. Laura will be on call to offer counseling services to those in need.

“The school is getting real,” said Dr. Phil. “Far too often people wait until it is too late to do what’s right.”  Not to be outdone, Dr. Laura is quoted as saying “without dormitories those stupid co-eds won’t be shacking up like unpaid whores!”

With regard to the development of the campus, Robert Kraft — who developed Patriot Place adjacent to Gillette Stadium where his New England Patriots play —  is no stranger to tackling big tasks and succeeding. The 67 year-old Kraft, with an estimated net worth of $6.6 billion, was named the 244th richest American by Forbes magazine.

“As an alumnus I am proud to be a part of this project. Today we are all Crimsons!” Kraft exclaimed.

Preliminary plans call for a residential area divided into four football-themed sections: First Down, Second Down, Third Down, Fourth Down, with an exclusive area for custom homes named Tom Brady Estates.

Also included will be a robust retail area with an array of retail stores. The initial list of national tenants includes HootersVictoria’s Secret, TGI Fridays, Subway, and Jiffy Lube. Patrons with small children can leave their children at “The Antonio Cromartie Daycare Center for Children with Forgettable Names” for a flat fee of $31.

In recognition of the land’s educational roots, a New England Tractor Trailer School (NETTTS) campus, “The Ted Kennedy Memorial School for Underwater Driving,” and a Greer Childers Body Flex Academy — along with several other instructional outletes — will open on the former site of the ivy league school.

With a nod to sustainability the entire development will recycle and reuse its waste at  the Eric Mangini Waste Processing Center. The facility will be heated by the hot air from ESPN headquarters in Bristol, CT (delivered directly via an underground pipeline).

With safety as a top concern, all 308 acres will be secured by a state of the art security and video monitoring system. Patriots head coach  Bill Belichick was personally involved with the design of the video camera network.

“It’s beyond anything I could have imagined,” commented Belichick. “The video system alone is worth the investment!”

Look for the first phase of  “Harvard ‘s 100 Yards” to open next summer!

PS: April Fools!

In the spirit of the holiday season, I crafted the following economy-inspired version of the classic Christmas tradition ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas for your yuletide pleasure. Behold a brand-new holiday classic: ‘Twas The Night Before Bailout!

Bailout America Logo

‘Twas the night before Bailout, when all through the Board,
Directors were scrambling, cash and stock options to horde.
Their loans were defaulting, their stock values shrinking,
Everyone hoping that St. Paulson would soon be ringing.

The executives were nestled all snug in their silk ties,
While visions of cash bonuses danced about like flies.
And the CEO in his cravat, and I in my gold-lined cap,
Just cooked our books so Fed money we could trap.

When out up on the helipad there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my office, did the glass ceiling shatter?
Away to the penthouse boardroom I flew in a tizzy,
Tore open the blinds, with anticipation I was dizzy.

The moon shining on the breasts of my gullible peon,
Gave the lustre of Bond’s martinis to objects like neon.
When, what to my glazed, wandering eyes I should spy,
But a red Hummer burning rubber across the night sky!

With an old weathered driver, green eyes and a sneer,
I knew in a moment that St. Paulson was finally here!
More rapid than auditors his eight minions they came,
He whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now, Citi! Now, BofA! Now, Morgan and Stanley,
On, GM! On, Chrysler! On Goldman and Fannie!
To the top of the building! To the top of Street Wall!
Now bail away! Bail away! Bail away all!”

As dry dollars that before a financial firestorm fly,
When they meet with the SEC, jet away to the sky;
So up to the building-top that red Hummer it flew,
With bags full of  TARP money and St. Paulson too.

And then, with prostate tingling, I heard on the ceiling,
The posturing and grandstanding of all eight underlings.
As I drew in from my Cuban cigar while turning around,
Right into the Boardroom St. Paulson crashed down.

He was dressed all in Gucci, from his head to John Lobbs,
And his clothes were tarnished with the money he robbed.
A bundle of taxpayer’s cash he had flung across his back,
He looked like a meth dealer furtively opening his pack.

His eyes how they squinted! His breath was so smelly!
His face covered in cash, dirty dollars filled his belly!
He reeked of the federal dollars he had just fleeced,
So slick was his style, his beard covered in grease.

The stump of a fat stogie he clenched tightly in his jaw,
His carbon footprint was huge, it went for miles I saw!
He had a distorted face and belly that he sure spoiled,
It sloshed when he laughed, like a bowlful of crude oil!

He was corpulent and wasteful, a frightening monster,
Had he not had the cash I’dve hit him with my roadster!
With no questions or oversight, the bailout he gave me,
Sarbanes-Oxley is a joke, now of regulations I am free!

He giggled and grunted then went straight to his scheme,
And filled all of the Board’s pockets with the stolen green.
He then turned with a jerk, and stuck a finger up his nose,
And when giving a belch, up through the ceiling he rose!

He staggered to his Hummer, to his team gave “the” finger,
And away they all flew, but long did his stench still linger.
But I heard him yell loudly, as he careened out of sight,
“Happy Bailout to all, and to CEOs a good-night!”

For more information about the “Bailout America” logo, please visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/doctorious/3102369490/

In a November 13, 2008 article on the Inside Higher Ed website, “As Economy Wavers, Online Enrollments Climb,” writer Andy Guess highlights the tremendous growth of enrollment in online education programs.

The article provides insight into the results of a report, “Staying the Course: Online Education in the United States, 2008,” prepared by the Sloan Consortium, an organization which tracks online learning trends. Summarizing the findings in the report, Guess makes the following observations:

In fall 2007, the study reports, some 3.94 million students enrolled in at least one online course, an increase of 12.9 percent over the previous year. That falls between the 9.7 percent growth for fall 2006 and the 19.7 compound annual rate since fall 2002. In comparison, total student enrollments increased 1.2 percent in the year leading up to last fall, while the compound annual rate for all enrollments since 2002 was 1.6 percent.

Clearly, with changing demographics, fluctuating gas prices and an unstable economy, people are looking to online education as a means of improving themselves while keeping their out-of-pocket costs low and their potential for success high.