updated 12/3/2008 9:07:52 AM ET 2008-12-03T14:07:52

Harvard University says its endowment has tumbled $8 billion in the four months since the end of the last fiscal year.

The estimated 22 percent decline is the school's sharpest endowment drop in modern history. The endowment was valued at $36.9 billion on June 30.

According to a letter to deans from university heads, Harvard must take a "hard look" at staffing levels and compensation. They're also forecasting a 30 percent drop for the fiscal year ending in June 2009.

The school has said its U.S. stock portfolio and foreign equity portfolio had taken hard hits recently. The school's endowment is the largest in higher education.

The university's president warns that the estimated drop may be conservative because some money managers that have yet to report figures.

More on Harvard University

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