Mass. Bill Would Force More Disclosure on Private College Finances

January 26, 2011

Legislation proposed in Massachusetts would require much greater disclosure of financial assets by the state’s “private non-profit colleges and universities and their employees or consultants,” according to Fenton, an organization that creates campaigns for causes, including this legislation. Capital market investments, consultant fees, and real estate investments are some of the types of financial disclosures the bill would mandate. State Sen. Patricia Jehlen, who helped introduce the legislation, said her support came from reading a Tellus foundations report (pdf) released last year documenting massive losses taken by six Massachusetts university endowments from risky investments that went sour during the financial crisis. She said that because university investments are tied up with the “enormous public subsidies these institutions are granted, … the public has a right to know more.” Richard Doherty, the president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts, sharply disagreed: “The premise of the bill is that private colleges are not fulfilling their charitable not-for-profit mission,” he said. “When people say things that are untrue, we’re going to be opposed to that.” The bill currently has the support of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which is upset about layoffs that followed the endowments' losses at some universities.

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