The Coming Showdown Over University Endowments: Enlisting the Donors
40 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2008 Last revised: 14 Nov 2008
Date Written: 2008
This essay focuses on the discordance between universities with endowments in excess of one billion dollars and what is occurring in the rest of higher education, particularly with respect to skyrocketing tuition and a growing institutional wealth gap. The essay analyzes absolute endowment values, the amount of endowment per student, and expense-endowment ratios at 60 private universities. It concludes that a small number of schools have an excess endowment, and then provides a convenient proxy for determining when an endowment is so large that it should receive less-preferential tax treatment. The essay then considers the effects that large endowments have at their home institutions and throughout higher education, the arguments in defense of large endowments, and some frequently-proposed modifications to the tax code. The essay recommends that policymakers modify the charitable deduction for gifts to universities with mega-endowments, as part of a multi-faceted effort to spur endowment spending and control tuition.
Keywords: universities, colleges, endowment, charitable deduction, donors, tuition
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