Six weeks ago, President Ronald D. Liebowitz of Middlebury College announced the establishment of a William H. Rehnquist Chair in American History and Culture. The announcement stirred considerable controversy on the campus. Some students and faculty members claimed that honoring the late Chief Justice Rehnquist by naming an endowed chair for him was an act of "symbolic violence" that betrayed the college's commitment to diversity.
Endowed chairs have a long tradition in Anglo-American higher education. In England, they go back to 1502, when Lady Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII, established the Lady Margaret Professorship of Divinity at the University of Cambridge. In America, they predate the Revolution, going back to 1721, when the Hollis Professorship of Divinity was established at Harvard University. But this has been an unusually troubled year for endowed chairs in American higher education.
The collapse of Enron several years ago, followed by the conviction on conspiracy and securities fraud charges, and the death in July of Enron's chief executive officer, Kenneth L. Lay, set four institutions to reviewing named chairs. At the University of Nebraska, Omaha, Mark Wohar was the "Distinguished Enron Professor of Economics" until July, when he became the "Distinguished UNO CBA Professor of Economics." That's Distinguished University of Nebraska, Omaha, College of Business Administration Professor of Economics. Since it was endowed in 1999, the University of Missouri at Columbia, has tried to fill the Kenneth L. Lay Chair in Economics. During that time, three candidates declined the university's offer of the chair, which is said to pay between $150,000 and $200,000 annually. The university resisted Lay's requests that it redirect his gift of $1 million in Enron stock, which it had sold before the corporate collapse, either to Katrina relief or his own legal defense.
Despite calls for a redefinition of the purpose of the endowed fund, indications are that the search to fill the chair continues this fall when several guest lecturers are being considered for offers. What it will be named remains to be seen. At the University of Houston, Bent Sorensen is the Lay Professor of Economics, but Keith T. Poole, who was the Kenneth L. Lay Professor of Political Science, has left for the University of California at San Diego. At neighboring Rice University, Simon Grant holds the Lay Family Chair in Economics, but plans for two Enron chairs in Rice's Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Management and a Ken Lay Center for the Study of Markets in Transition collapsed when the corporation went into bankruptcy.
The controversy at Middlebury is one of several recent echoes of the culture wars, closely monitored by higher education's critics, left and right. If naming Middlebury's new chair for Rehnquist is controversial, the Enron/Lay chairs and other endowed chairs elsewhere might be more obvious targets of criticism. There has been a "Richard M. Nixon Chair in Public Policy" at his alma mater, California's Whittier College, since the 1970s. According to the college catalogue, it honors a "distinguished public servant." The Nixon chair has never been more than a one year, visiting appointment and, in more recent years, its endowment has subsidized guest lecturers.
At Southern institutions, schools and endowed chairs memorialize many defenders of the old order. The Harry F. Byrd School of Business at Virginia's Shenandoah University is named for the Old Dominion's architect of massive resistance. The name of his distant cousin, Senator Robert C. Byrd, the former Ku Klux Klan member and porkmeister supreme, seems to be on everything in West Virginia. In August, a blogger in Huntington, noted that Senator Byrd was to dedicate the Robert C. Byrd Institute of Biotechnology at Marshall University. It gave him a vision of the future. "In the morning, I would drive along the Robert Byrd Blvd. to work, pass the Robert Byrd bridge, drop off my kids at the Robert Byrd Elementary School, stop by the Robert Byrd Nestle Café for a cup of coffee, then I would head towards the Robert Byrd Center of Instructional Technology," he wrote.
He continued: "I will then schedule a meeting with the Robert Byrd Professor from the Robert Byrd Department of English. After work, I will go to the Robert Byrd Square to watch 'Everybody loves Robert Byrd' with a big basket of Robert Byrd popcorn. If I happen to see someone who asks for directions for a particular institute, I would ask him to close his eyes and walk in any direction. He is sure to see a Robert Byrd Institute when he opens his eyes at the first wall he bumps into."
So, yes, of course, the University of West Virginia has Robert C. Byrd Professors. These are endowed chairs on the cheap, however. Over a period of 16 years, 16 professors will hold four year appointments as Robert C. Byrd Professor and receive $5,000 annual salary supplements.
Further south, Alabama has community colleges named for George Wallace and his first wife, Lurleen, with locations in Andalusia, Dothan, Eufala, Fort Rucker, Greenville, Luverne, MacArthur, and Selma. Apart from the racism, for which he's most commonly remembered elsewhere, Alabama dots the countryside with memorials to his populism. Elsewhere, North Carolina's Wingate University has a Jesse Helms Center, which houses the former senator's papers and sponsors conferences sympathetic to his perspectives. The University of South Carolina has a Strom Thurmond Chair in History or Political Science at its branch campus in Aiken and an underfunded Strom Thurmond Chair of Law at its main campus in Columbia. At the University of Georgia, Edward J. Larson holds chairs named -- not for one -- but for two of the state's most powerful 20th century racists. He is the Richard B. Russell Professor of American History and the Herman Talmadge Professor of Law.
It's almost enough to make you wonder if the name of any chair would cause a self-respecting person to refuse to sit in it. Discussions of the Lay Chair at Missouri led a wagging lawblogger to ask "which endowed Chairs (if any) would law professors refuse? The Martha Stewart Chair in Business Ethics? The Fred Phelps Chair in Family Law? The Roger Taney Chair in Law and History? Would [someone] take the Michael Hayden Chair in Privacy Law? What if it came with a fat salary, no teaching requirements, and a guarantee to increase blogger readership ten fold?"
Jesting aside, however, distinguished work can bring honor to dubiously named chairs. Larson's is an example of that. In 1998, his Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion won the Pulitzer Prize in History. That recognition came after two prior books, Trial and Error: The American Controversy Over Creation and Evolution and Sex, Race, and Science: Eugenics in the Deep South; and it has been followed by a half dozen additional books, on subjects ranging from a narrative history of the constitutional convention based on the notes of James Madison to a casebook in property law. His many dozens of articles and reviews have appeared in important newspapers and historical, legal, and scientific journals, both in the United States and Britain. By any measure Larson's professional work has been exemplary.
In September, John J. Miller's article, "Sounding Taps," for National Review launched a widespread discussion. Ten years ago, Miller pointed out, the historian Stephen Ambrose donated $250,000 to endow a chair at his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin. The chair in American military history was to be named for his mentor, William B. Hesseltine. Subsequently, Ambrose urged others to contribute to the chair's endowment and, before his death in 2002, he contributed another $250,000. Ultimately, the chair was renamed the Ambrose-Hesseltine Chair and it is endowed at over $1 million. Yet, charged Miller, the University of Wisconsin's history department has dragged its feet in conducting a search to fill it. That story, he said, demonstrated the hostility of historians, generally, to the field of military history and contributes to its general decline in American colleges and universities.
Ohio State's Mark Grimsley charged Miller with crying "Crocodile Tears" over military history's grave. Miller was primarily interested in scoring points in the culture wars, said Grimsley, and the field is more robustly healthy than Miller allowed. His own department, for example, will fill two newly endowed chairs in military history in the next five years. Grimsley's reply to Miller touched off further discussions in the blogosphere, with theaters at Grimsley's Blog Them Out of the Stone Age, the historians' group blog, Cliopatria,National Review's Phi Beta Cons, Eric Alterman's Altercation, and The New Republic's Open University. Those discussions of military history and the academy extended beyond Miller and Grimsley to include many others. The fate of the Ambrose-Hesseltine Chair at the University of Wisconsin was largely lost in the broader discussion of military history in academe, but the discussion may have prompted its fate. In response to Miller's questions, a spokesman for Wisconsin's history department admitted that some of his colleagues were still less than enthusiastic about filling the chair, but denied that there was any hesitation about filling it because of the charges of plagiarism in Stephen Ambrose's work. The department, he said, was committed to filling the chair in the future.
Missouri's experience with the Lay Chair and Wisconsin's with the Ambrose-Hesseltine Chair are comparable. They are comparably endowed; and the names of both chairs carry some stigma. While Missouri had aggressively sought to fill the Lay Chair, however, Wisconsin had been slow to fill the Ambrose-Hesseltine Chair. Miller's article and the subsequent widespread discussion of military history and academe may have prompted the issue in Madison. Last month, Wisconsin's history department began advertising its search to fill its endowed chair in American military history.
As for Middlebury, it announced that the first person to hold the William H. Rehnquist Chair in American History and Culture would be James R. Ralph Jr. Already a member of the history department at the college, Ralph is an expert in the history of the American civil rights movement. He is the author of Northern Protest: Martin Luther King, Jr., Chicago, and the Civil Rights Movement, a well-received monograph on the subject. We've come a long way since 1964, when William Rehnquist began his career in public life by challenging the rights of ethnic minorities to vote in Arizona.
It's unlikely that any American institution will ever have to decide whether to create the Adolph Hitler Chair in Holocaust Studies and even more unlikely that it ever would. Far short of that, institutions ought to hesitate about creating endowed chairs or institutes with money that has too many strings attached. Having said that, few institutions have the luxury of choosing their benefactors or their benefactors' wishes. Endowed chairs can create the conditions for the University of Georgia to keep an Edward J. Larson or Middlebury to retain a James R. Ralph Jr., on their faculties. If their chairs are named for William Rehnquist, Richard B. Russell, or Herman Talmadge, it seems a small price to pay for that institutional capacity. I wouldn't say, "Take the money and run." I would say, "Take the money and put it to good work."
Ralph E. Luker
Ralph E. Luker is an Atlanta historian and a blogger at Cliopatria.
On April 11, the president of Columbia University announced that it had received a $400 million pledge from alumnus John W. Kluge, who in 2006 was 52nd on the Forbes list of the wealthiest people, earning his fortune through the buying and selling of television and radio stations. This gift, payable upon the 92-year-old’s death, will be the fourth largest ever given to a single institution of higher education.
With such a massive transfer of wealth, the accolades poured in, justifying such a gift to an Ivy League university. Columbia's president, Lee Bollinger, said: “The essence of America’s greatness lies, in no small measure, in our collective commitment to giving all people the opportunity to improve their lives… [Kluge] has chosen to direct his amazing generosity to ensuring that young people will have the chance to benefit from a Columbia education regardless of their wealth or family income.” Mayor Michael Bloomberg indicated that investing in education produces returns that can’t be matched. Rep. Charles Rangel said the gift would ensure greater numbers of students can afford a first-class education.
I am becoming less and less tolerant of people who pass wealth on to the privileged and masquerade it as philanthropy. Philanthropy is the voluntary act of donating money, goods or services to a charitable cause, intended to promote good or improve human well being. When a billionaire gives money that will benefit people who are more than likely already well off or who already have access to huge sums of money, attending the ninth richest university by endowment, this is not philanthropy. This simply extends the gross inequities that exist in our country -- inequities that one day will come home to roost.
Almost 40 percent of all college students nationally earned a Pell Grant, which in general represents students from families earning less than $35,000 a year. Yes, almost 40 percent of students in college today are from low income families. At Columbia, where tuition and fees alone tops $31,000, only 16 percent of students are Pell Grant eligible. In fact, over 60 percent of Columbia students don’t even bother to apply for federal financial aid. They can pay the bill -- no problem (see the Economic Diversity of Colleges Web site). Columbia is not alone. A recent New York Times article, which provided a great story on a recent Amherst College graduate, indicated that 75 percent of students attending elite colleges come from the top socioeconomic quartile, while only 10 percent come from the bottom half, and just 3 percent from the bottom quartile.
For comparison, 83 percent of my students received the Pell Grant during that same year, and 84 percent applied for financial aid. Even with tuition and fees less than $9,000 a year, my students on average will leave college with MORE debt than Columbia students, in fact $11,000 more even though tuition and fees are $22,000 a year less!
I am hopeful that Columbia will do as it states it will, which is to expand the number of scholarship grants to needy students. President Bollinger has been a strong advocate for affirmative action, and I am very hopeful because he has shown great integrity. But even assuming that Columbia spends the money on aid, and that it couldn’t spend more of its existing money on poor students, not to mention admitting more of them, the university’s current campaign has a goal of $1 billion for facilities – that’s an astronomical sum of “philanthropy” to help a wealthy institution have better facilities. And Columbia isn’t alone -- as there are similarly ambitious spending plans by the other public and private universities currently seeking to raise billions of dollars.
And the situation in which the wealthy get wealthier -- while feeling good about their “philanthropic” traditions -- isn’t much better in elite public higher education. Last fall, The Education Trust released “Engines of Inequality: Diminishing Equity in the Nation’s Premier Public Universities.” This report got little to no play nationally, and certainly nothing like the play the Columbia gift received, because the conclusions were a damning condemnation of higher education’s elite. In 2003, about 100 research extensive universities spent $257 million in financial aid for students from families earning over $100,000 a year, almost as much as that spent on students from families earning $20,000-40,000, and more than that spent on students from families earning less than $20,000. Again, much of these funds come from wealthy, image conscious alumni, praised for being philanthropists, who primarily want to ensure that their university has the best and brightest their money will buy.
The authors of the report indicate “these universities find it more important to use their own money to buy high-income students, who will almost inevitably attend an elite institution no matter what, than to expand the enrollment of… low-income students.” You see, paying to “educate” students who are the easiest to educate raises your rankings. In the process, you keep out poor kids, and incidentally, you will have fewer black and Latino students as well.
Yes, most of these enormous philanthropic gifts go to colleges with small numbers of African American, Latino and Native American students, America’s underrepresented people of color. In looking at a comparison of research extensive and top tier schools using the Economic Diversity of Colleges Web site, Columbia unfortunately has one of the higher percentages among the elite universities of black students at 9 percent, and of Latinos, at 10 percent. Most though are in single digits, and half are around 6-7 percent or less. The Education Trust’s study indicates that black, Latino and Native Americans are 24 percent of all college students, but only 12 percent at state flagships.
So the colleges with the greatest wealth and the best of everything that money can buy (from faculty to facilities), not only are underrepresented with poor students, but also restrict minority students from accessing these resources. If public universities can be called “gated communities of higher education,” private universities like Columbia are easily the country clubs.
America’s so-called philanthropists ignore these facts, and we continue to laud their generosity to the privileged. At the same time, people of color continue to fall further and further behind, and unless we begin to help those who actually need help, America’s economy will suffer.
The idea is simple. By 2020, there will be a 77 percent increase in the Hispanic population and a 32 percent increase in the black population, with less than a 1 percent increase for whites. In 1980, whites were 82 percent of the working age population. By 2020, they will be 63 percent of workers. From 1980 to 2000, the educational gap between whites and blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans has actually widened. Finally, those same people of color earn less than whites at all equivalent levels of education.
Kelly writes, “Substantial growth in the least-educated segments of our population combined with income disadvantages for the same populations will not lead us toward a brighter future…. If these problems are left unaddressed, the result is a less educated workforce and a decline in per capita personal income.”
And so I read with my general sense of despair as another billionaire gives millions to a university that serves a population that looks nothing like America presently or in the future, economically or racially. Politicians heap praises for these gifts from the wealthy to the wealthy while the vast majority of their constituents will never benefit from these acts. They’re too busy working three jobs and sending their kids to substandard elementary and high schools that will ensure they never go to places like Columbia.
This is not a sour grapes soliloquy. This is a cry for justice. I spend many nights trying to figure out how do colleges like mine, which have the students with the most need, both educationally and financially, catch the attention of those who have the power to transform the lives of the masses. Just think what $400 million would do at my college, which has an endowment of $12 million.
But this is a dream for colleges like mine. In fact, the record gift by individuals to any historically black college is a mere $20 million, given 20 years ago by Bill and Camille Cosby. We are left to maximize the Pell Grant which covers a fraction of what it did 30 years ago, as well as beg for corporate crumbs to assist our students. Occasionally in this quest to help even when the college can’t afford to do so, some colleges have improperly provided federal financial aid, which then creates an impression of incompetence. I know -- I inherited such a situation. While I don’t agree with what happened, I can tell you that the driving force was a desire to help someone graduate from college despite the limited resources. This Robin Hood approach only works in the movies though.
Our political leaders must begin to challenge the wealthy to practice real philanthropy. They should be encouraged to give gifts that will benefit a greater number of people with real need (most of their constituents), versus a wealthy minority. If that fails, everyone must know that our economy is on the verge of collapse as greater numbers of poorly educated, lower wage earning people of color become the majority of our workforce.
It is time for us to restore the integrity of philanthropy, and call gifts to the wealthy what they really are -- the perpetuation of privilege.
Walter M. Kimbrough
Walter M. Kimbrough is the president of Philander Smith College.
Over the years, Antioch College birthed a number of campuses to constitute a university now composed of the college and five other campuses -- New England, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Seattle and McGregor. The five non-residential campuses comprise over 5,000 students, 400 faculty and staff members, and 18,000 alumni and constitute 92 percent of the total enrollments of Antioch University. Some 85 percent of the students in the non-residential colleges are enrolled in graduate programs -- master’s and doctorates -- in the professional fields of psychology, education, management, communication, leadership, creative writing, and environmental science.
The campuses are non-residential but not “virtual.” Students take classes in actual buildings on campus; instruction is delivered in a variety of formats (including some online components), but the substantive focus of all instruction is on reflective practice. Antioch University students aim to bring the ways of knowledge and expertise to bear on the needs and changing realities of the community and larger society. On multiple campuses but with one overarching purpose, Antioch University embodies values that are the core components of effective leadership, education, and social activism -- values which have been embedded in them by their mother campus, the college.
Indeed, the university mission statement reads “Antioch University is founded on principles of rigorous liberal arts education, innovative experiential learning and socially engaged citizenship. The multiple campuses of the university nurture in their students the knowledge, skills and habits of reflection to excel as lifelong learners, democratic leaders and global citizens who live lives of meaning and purpose.”
As is the case at some other progressive institutions, including Hampshire, Goddard, and Evergreen State ( Editors' note: Hampshire and Evergreen State have systems of long-term faculty employment that are in some ways equivalent to tenure.) Antioch chose not to establish tenure at these non-residential campuses. The campuses were intended to address a group of students whose needs would be ever changing -- adult students, many of them in professions and with families, returning to higher education to get the knowledge and qualifications they need to be effective in their careers and their communities. And to meet those students’ needs, the campuses realized their own need for flexibility in curricular offerings, the ability to anticipate program requirements and to fulfill them in creative and adaptive ways, engaging a diverse and at times non-traditional faculty.
Over some 30 years, the "adult campuses" grew and thrived by addressing the demand for graduate professional programs that are innovative and ensure quality while adapting to the working adult's schedule. To offer such programs took a group of faculty who are confident in the quality of their academic credentials and teaching ability in ways that enable them to be creative and flexible as they design programming and curriculum to stay current. It takes an amazing group of talented core faculty who spend hours on campus serving as instructors, faculty advisers, supervisors, and mentors while encouraging critical inquiry and challenging students to think in new and different ways. These core faculty hold doctorates and most are practitioners, researchers, and scholars.
Students at the Antioch University campuses do not receive a large portion of their education in courses taught by teaching assistants, as is often the case at many institutions. Rather, they are taught by these core faculty members, a significant number of whom have been with their campuses for over 20 years. In a practice that enhances the breadth and depth of their curricula, programs offered at the campuses often employ part-time faculty members who otherwise work as professional practitioners in their respective fields. These individuals, almost all of whom hold graduate degrees, many of them doctorates, commit to teaching at an Antioch campus over a period of time, providing students the opportunity to work with successful, often prominent figures in their fields of study and their professions.
The result of all of this is a faculty that brings multiple kinds of experience, expertise, and both theoretical and practical engagement with the knowledge, beliefs, and actions that are the hallmark of Antioch’s innovative and progressive education for change.
Across the years, students have responded enthusiastically -- in word and in action -- to this kind of educational process. "Antioch offers an opportunity to give yourself permission to think deeply about why you’re doing what you’re doing, then put it into practice,” wrote one. Another said, “Just a few years ago, if you talked about environmental or holistic sustainability, you were out on the edge or over the edge. Antioch has one foot in the mainstream and one foot not so.” And another: “Antioch is a school that did not seek to shape my voice, but rather helped me find and strengthen my own voice. My professors cared about how I thought; because that is the tool they taught me to sharpen.”
A few snapshots of programs and accomplishments will suggest something of the innovation, excellence, diversity, and commitment to the greater good that characterize Antioch University across its campuses:
Antioch University Seattle is the leading institution in the nation in reforming the delivery of education to Native American youth. Its innovative program, supported by multimillion-dollar grants from the Gates, Lumina and Kellogg Foundations, has established over 10 Early College models in three states that have witnessed amazing results in increasing the Native American high school retention, graduation, and successful passing of state required testing, in some cases far above the rates of middle- and upper-class students. Antioch Seattle has just named as its new president Cassandra Manuelito-Kerkvliet, who is believed to be the first Native American woman to hold the presidency of an accredited university outside the tribal college system.
Antioch University New England’s doctoral program in psychology is noted for its quality by receiving a 10-year accreditation from the American Psychological Association. The majority of the psychology master's programs in Seattle and New England are accredited by their professional accrediting agencies.
Antioch University Los Angeles's Creative Writing program will be named in the forthcoming summer fiction issue of the Atlantic magazine as one of the top five low-residency MFA programs in the United States, in the company of the Bennington and Vermont College programs. The Los Angeles MFA has distinguished itself through the use of award-winning faculty in fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction, and through innovative features such as field study, the translation seminar, the alumni weekend residency, and a student-edited online literary journal.
Antioch University McGregor recently received accreditation from the National Council on Accreditation for Teacher Education (NCATE), which attests to its excellence, for its master's in education program while many other large public institutions have lost their accreditation.
The Antioch University Ph.D. in Leadership and Change has been recognized by the Ohio Board of Regents for its quality and innovation. In “Shift Happens" (published in the July/August issue of Educause), Bill Graves cites Antioch's Ph.D. program as "a paradigm-shifting innovation in doctoral education" with positive implications for both graduate-level curriculum and delivery design and undergraduate applications.
These few glimpses of the campuses should confirm that Antioch University is a community of educators and learners – advocates, activists, risk-takers, mavericks, entrepreneurs, creative thinkers, and problem solvers. Those who teach and study at the non-residential campuses fully believe in and work to extend the values upon which Antioch College was founded and for which it has stood across the decades. Indeed, as one current student in the Ph.D. in Leadership and Change program wrote recently in a letter to TheChronicle of Higher Education, “Many of us in the doctoral program profoundly value our program’s connection with the undergraduate, historically significant, values-driven college. We signed on to study at Antioch, among other reasons, because we wanted a program connected with a deep history and values, a program with deep roots. We chose Antioch.”
The Board of Trustees of Antioch University is committed to ensuring the future of Antioch -- across all its campuses and in a manner consonant with its proud history and accomplishments. The temporary suspension of operations at Antioch College was taken as a protective move to enable a time in which to regroup and revitalize the College. Its reopening is strongly advocated and anticipated. As that process moves forward, the five non-residential campuses of Antioch University continue to embody the Antioch vision of higher education, with its dedication to innovation and excellence.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, fresh from an investigation of the student loan industry, is out with a plan he says will "help reverse the crisis in college affordability." Kennedy’s Robin Hood approach takes $18 billion from lenders and applies it to reducing loan repayment costs for students, among other purposes.
The student loan business is a lucrative one. But the senator is going after the wrong folks if he’s trying to rein in the biggest “fat cats” in academe. That mantle should rest on the shoulders of colleges and universities themselves. Legislators setting policy with regard to higher education should realize that colleges and universities are our nation’s richest -- and possibly most miserly -- “nonprofits.”
Colleges and universities are sitting on a fortune in tax-free funds, and sharing almost none of it. Higher education endowment assets alone total over $340 billion. Sixty-two institutions boast endowments over $1 billion. Harvard and Yale top the list with endowments so massive, $28 billion and $18 billion respectively, that they exceed the general operating funds for the states in which they reside. It's not just elite private institutions that do this; four public universities have endowments that rank among the nation’s top 10. The University of Texas’ $13 billion endowment is the fourth largest nationwide, vastly overshadowing most of the Ivy League.
These endowments tower over their peers throughout the nonprofit world. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is America’s wealthiest museum. But the Met’s $2 billion endowment is bested by no less than 26 academic institutions, including the University of Minnesota, Washington University in St. Louis, and Emory. Indeed, the total worth of the top 25 college and university endowments is $11 billion greater than the combined assets of their equivalently ranked private foundations -- including Gates, Ford and Rockefeller.
Higher education endowments also are growing much faster than private foundations. The value of college and university endowments skyrocketed 17.7 percent last year, while private foundation assets increased 7.8 percent. Just 3.3 percent of the increase in academic endowments is attributable to new gifts. Most of the gain is a result of stingy, outdated endowment payout policies that retain and perpetually re-invest massive sums. This widespread practice results in a hoarding of tax-free funds.
A recent survey of 765 colleges and universities found they are spending 4.2 percent of their endowments’ value each year. Meanwhile, private foundations -- which are legally required to spend at least 5 percent of their value annually -- average 7 percent spending.
Higher education endowments differ from private foundations in one particularly important respect. Private foundations exist to give their money to others, while college and university endowments support just one charity -- their school. But isn’t being your own sole beneficiary reason to spend more, not less? Particularly when a substantial area of spending -- financial aid grants to current students -- targets precisely the people you expect will be your future donors?
Paradoxically, it is precisely the meager financial aid outlays of endowment-rich colleges and universities that make the true miserliness of low payout practices most apparent. Stanford University spends $76 million on undergraduate financial aid, a sum that sounds generous but amounts to a mere 0.5 percent of the value of its endowment. The university spends just 4 percent of its $14 billion endowment toward operating expenses. If the 5 percent payout rule required Stanford to spend another 1 percent of its endowment, and that money was directed toward financial aid, students would enjoy $211 million in additional support. That is precisely the cost of letting all 6,600 Stanford undergraduates attend tuition-free.
The University of Texas’ nine campuses enroll 147,576 undergraduates who each pay on average $5,903 in tuition. All of U.T.’s undergraduates could attend school tuition-free if the system spent half the amount the university’s endowment grew just last year.
Of course just because a college can afford to offer education tuition-free doesn’t mean it should. Giving a free ride to students who can afford to pay obviously would cut into the bottom line in other ways. Also, education is a real service for which people should pay. And a higher quality education should command a steeper price.
But college and university endowment spending practices should reflect the public responsibility that adjoins tax-free status. When people donate to a school they get a tax break because their donation is supposed to serve the public. When those untaxed funds sit unused, piling up for decades, taxpayers are making a sacrifice and getting nothing in return.
College and university endowments currently are exempt from the 5 percent annual payout requirement. Institutions of higher education aren’t even required to publicly report endowment payout rates or the purposes for which funds are spent. And the only organization that collects that information, the National Association of College and University Business Officers, does not make it public, except on an aggregate basis. Congress should require payout rates and specific expenditures for individual institutions to be made public each year. And if this “sunshine” fails to drive up endowment spending, a minimum payout requirement should be established.
And 5 percent should be considered just a starting point. College and university endowments exist to support current operations. But if that only requires a mere 4 percent draw, clearly there is ample room to use additional endowment funds for purposes that serve the public directly. For example, why not take some of the burden off students, families and taxpayers by providing more financial aid to needy students? After all, why should taxpayers be subsidizing an ever-burgeoning number of student loans while schools can afford to provide more scholarships?
For too long the government response to skyrocketing tuition has been to increase the size and number of student loans. Now the plan is to make loan repayment easier and increase grant aid again. But making it possible for students and parents to go more deeply into debt only encourages endowment hoarding and runaway tuition. It is time for legislators to come up with a smarter strategy for addressing college affordability -- one that will pressure colleges and universities to better serve students, families, and taxpayers. And getting schools to stop hoarding billions in tax-free funds would be a good first step.
The high cost of education has consequences. When asked to name an expense that is beyond their reach, people cite “paying for college” more than buying a home, retirement, or anything else. The intimidating effect of high tuition is the largest “access” problem in American higher education. If colleges and universities truly want to open their doors to all, they will begin by sharing their riches.
Lynne Munson, an adjunct research fellow at the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, served as deputy chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 2001-5. She is at work on a book on endowment hoarding.
For more than 20 years I had been an award-winning journalism teacher with former students ranging from mega star Garth Brooks at Oklahoma State University to the late E! network movie critic Anderson Jones at Ohio University, with a few Pulitzer Prize winners in between. So it surprised hundreds of alumni when I took an administrative job with no teaching duties but plenty of fund-raising ones.
“Won’t you miss the classroom?” asked colleagues who knew my love of students and doubted I would succeed as a fund-raiser when I became director of the Greenlee School at Iowa State University.
I, on the other hand, was eager to raise funds for professors who often lack the resources that they need to be effective educators and researchers.
Unhappy with budget cuts and reversions, I had reached that stage of academic life when I had to decide my fate: Make do with my sliver of the legislative pie chart and fade into retirement, or chart a bolder plan of my own.
That plan was to work with the ISU Foundation to enhance programming, boost professional development and maintain first-rate facilities.
Fact is, external support, always vital at private schools, is increasingly so at public institutions as lawmakers allocate fewer dollars to higher education, forcing institutions to raise tuition. That also motivated me to hone my skills as a fund-raiser to attract scholarships and paid internships so that students could afford a degree.
To be fair, however, I knew the fundamentals of fund-raising before I took a job as a full-time administrator. Before relocating to Iowa State, I had the advantage of working closely with some of the best development officers in business in the president’s office at Ohio University.
I didn’t deal directly with benefactors under former President Robert Glidden and Len Raley, then executive director of the Ohio Foundation. I did something more educational concerning fund-raising: I helped write annual reports and edit other documents recognizing and thanking benefactors. I put to practice in my current post what I learned at OU. In the past five years, the Greenlee School has raised millions in pledges, cash and in-kind support from individual donors and media corporations. As our first priority, we increased giving to programming and faculty development. Then we focused on scholarships. Now, with a new Ph.D. proposal under review, we’re emphasizing assistantships and fellowships. The theme of any effective campaign is to align it with the strategic plan of the unit and institution. I learned that at OU, too.
At the moment we are using additional funds to complete our building renovation with state of the art technology augmented by interpersonal space -- part of the original design before I arrived at ISU -- which gave me insight into the culture of the place. Professors wanted their students to think of our building as their second home. The more students remain in our midst, the more opportunity we have to interact with them face to face. That does wonders for climate especially during Iowa winters.
The open area in the central part of our building is furnished with lounge chairs and café tables and stools where students congregate in luxurious environs. Vending machines are nearby. The furniture and walls look new although they are almost five years old because our students consider Hamilton Hall, where journalism and communication are housed, their shared property.
We want them to share more than that -- a legacy with faculty and alumni founded in lifelong learning. This relates to any program at any college or university.
Taking in part what I had learned at OU, we have codified 10 best fund-raising practices outlined below for chairs, directors and deans:
1. Spend an hour a day on alumni relations. Keep contact by letter, phone, e-mail and personal visits, asking how benefactors are doing and what is new in their lives. Relationship building requires a genuine interest in why a benefactor feels that his or her home department is special. Soon you come to understand the culture of your unit better than you thought you did and grasp, conscientiously, why the focus on benefactor relations not only generates external funding but new friendships based on shared values.
2. Send a "Good News" e-mail to your alumni and friends about faculty, staff and student achievements. Each month I ask colleagues to send me word on their latest contributions in the areas of teaching/advising, research/scholarship, professional service and community service. We’ve been doing this now for four years and so can chart productivity with data from previous years. It has risen each year in most categories. This has been an effective tool because we can document empirically a direct connection between support and achievement. Moreover, benefactors want to keep in touch and help celebrate success. So we provide the contact numbers of faculty and students to foster continuing dialogues within our unit because fundraising is a collective endeavor. No administrator should take full credit for annual giving levels as all activities in academe require a team approach, and that includes staff members whose daily contributions typically go unsung. Moreover, benefactors usually remember professors, not administrators, when they feel the urge to give back to the institution that made a difference in their lives. Here is an example of "Good News from Greenlee" from our archives.
3. Put out a newsletter and invite alumni and friends to network with each other through it. The Greenlee School newsletter, really an annual yearbook, is shared in print and online. You can check it out here. We also publish and post a monthly newsletter that focuses on faculty, students and alumni. That newsletter goes in faculty boxes with agendas and items of the next faculty meeting. Here is an example. In these and other publications, profile projects that alumni may want to underwrite, and otherwise use these forums to thank benefactors for their support as well as acknowledge anonymous giving without identifying benefactors, of course, but by showcasing how their gifts have helped faculty, students and staff.
4. Use your online home page for alumni and benefactor relations. We do profiles of alumni each month in addition to "Good News from Greenlee" and monthly newsletters. Here are two from our online archives: Louis M. Thompson and Edith (Lillie) Bartley.
5. Send a mass mailing that doesn’t ask for money. We do a holiday letter between Thanksgiving and New Year's, and we do not ask for donations or support but use the opportunity to express our gratitude, in keeping with the season. We also send an annual report at the end of our spring semester or quarter, noting productivity of faculty and students in addition to alumni achievements.
6. Create an advisory council and, if the unit is large enough, national chapters in major cities sanctioned as official by the Alumni Association. Bylaws of the Greenlee School’s Council and part of its more recent structure were based on successful bodies such as found at Syracuse, Georgia and Ohio University journalism and communication schools and colleges. We are opening alumni chapters around the country, thanks to the leadership of two Council members and our assistant director Barbara Mack. See our online Web site.
7. Write letters of thanks rather than send mail merge letters. We use ISU Thank You cards for this purpose, and I enclose a business card with each individual hand-written note to foster increased contact with the vast majority of our donors. We have anywhere from 500 to 750 every year, so this is a year-round activity. Our students also write thank-you letters when they receive word that they will receive scholarships, or else we withhold their awards -- a practice that another colleague, Kim Smith, recommended when he was undergraduate director. Benefactors not only appreciate these letters; students often benefit as well, making important mentors who share with them a culture and common interest in their alma mater.
8. Invite alumni groups to interact with students and faculty. We asked our major benefactors what they would be willing to do -- guest lecture, invite job shadowing, judge contests, etc. -- and compiled a booklet with contact numbers, distributing that to the faculty. Professors and alumni network all the time now without my requesting or scheduling this. After all, as mentioned previously, our benefactors typically give because of teachers. They want to work with them still. While administrators don’t have to monitor this, they do have to support it, to the extent of providing travel and professional development accounts for each faculty member. Thanks to the level of giving of our benefactors, each faculty member in the Greenlee School enjoys a $3,000 professional development account as well as a $2,000 account for grant- and external giving activities.
9. Use homecoming and graduation ceremonies as benefactor opportunities. Host open houses, brunches, etc., and acknowledge college and university alumni awards. Take pictures. Post them. Moreover, try to schedule award presentations around pivotal seasonal events so that alumni and/or council members have additional reasons to visit their alma mater. We use homecoming as an occasion to present our coveted Schwartz Award, the highest honor ISU bestows on alumni and friends who have made significant accomplishments in journalism and communication.
10. In speeches, annual reports and other correspondence -- even ones not necessarily directed at benefactors -- mention their legacies and build a culture around a common theme embraced by all. Our graduate program embraces communication with practice, a take-off on ISUs “science with practice” motto. Our undergraduate degree programs are known for “hard-hat journalism” and “hands-on advertising.” Those monikers represent our 400-hour required internship, one of the toughest in the nation. Alumni and council members represent both our graduate and undergraduate programs, and we link their contributions to our mottos so that our culture can be embraced by newly hired professors when we continuing ones are long gone. This is why an emphasis on "culture" is more important than on "vision" when hiring or appointing new unit heads and explains why benefactor relations is vital in any leadership position. As an example, the Greenlee School is known for international communication across our graduate and undergraduate degrees. We are in the early stages of creating a foreign correspondence internship program in the name of one of our legacies, World War II combat reporter Jack Shelley -- who at age 95 is still a member of our Advisory Council.
An administrator embodies the culture that alumni have built. I typically wear a 1915 pin from then Iowa State College, which reminds me of the legacy of which I am a part. I have requested lapel pins and memorabilia of our most senior distinguished alumni, past and present, and we will display them in Hamilton Hall and wear them with the knowledge of where these pins have been or who has worn them since World War II. Our alumni include the late Robert Bartley of The Wall Street Journal, who won a Pulitzer Prize and Medal of Freedom, and the late Hugh Sidey, long-time White House bureau chief for Time Magazine. When students ask about these donated items, we can tell them the story of our most successful journalists and continue their legacies.
You can enhance these practices or develop your own, remembering that alumni, faculty and students are the foundation of any program. Enlist them in your efforts, and you will raise funds as well as consciousness of your unit’s contributions to society, ensuring your culture for future generations.
Michael Bugeja’s looking for Garth Brooks at the moment to sponsor a scholarship for aspiring music critics. After leaving Oklahoma State in 1986, Bugeja served as professor and later as associate director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and as special assistant to the President at Ohio University. In 2003 he became director of the Greenlee School at Iowa State University.
There are over 1,500 private foundations that support public universities and colleges in this country. Their collective assets are enormous – 25 have endowments of at least $1 billion each. Yet little is known about them. Journalists, with few exceptions, rarely bother to find out how they support their universities and colleges.
What we do know is that many are not transparent and publicly accountable; allocate substantial funds to supplement CEO and senior administrators’ salaries and benefits; provide superfluous benefits unrelated to academics such as country club memberships, leased cars, housing allowances, housekeepers, spousal travel, lawn care and other perks to coaches and administrators; engage in self-dealing relationships with their trustees and university regents; and pay their executives high salaries.
In difficult financial times, when state support of higher education is being cut, tuition costs are rapidly rising and financial aid for needy students is declining, such expenditures are increasingly hard to justify. That is why parents, public officials, students and the general public have the right to know what is going on in these institutions.
The Nebraska foundation provides the Nebraska president with most of his perks and a growing amount of his salary, including a 19.3 percent increase in 2008. It also gives the president a $700,000 discretionary fund every year.
In 2003, also in Nebraska, the Peru State College foundation made a secret deal with the Peru State College president to give him $455,572 in deferred payments if the president agreed to continue in his position for five additional years. This transaction was never reported to the state, a violation of the law for which the president was fined all of $1,200.
In California, Sonoma State University's foundation made a $1 million loan to a board member. The most recent California State University scandal occurred a few weeks ago at the Stanislaus campus where the Stanislaus foundation refused to reveal how much it was paying Sarah Palin to speak at a fundraiser and to divulge the names of the donors to the event. The foundation claimed that its charity status exempted it from the state disclosure laws. Several state legislators have introduced a bill that would bring public university foundations under the state record rules.
And the list of questionable activities could go on and on. What is clear is that much of what is happening at these public college foundations is the result of a lack of transparency, strict guidelines and oversight.
Reporters, regents, and the public should be asking these foundations and their boards some tough questions, including:
1. What expenditures did the foundation make during the year, including cash and in-kind contributions to the CEO, administrators, coaches and faculty?
2. Were any building contracts or services provided to the university, eg., fund-raising, legal, etc., from foundation funds tied in any way to firms with which foundation board members or university regents had relationships? How much money was involved?
3. What were the salaries and benefits paid to foundation staff?
4. What contributions were made to a president’s discretionary fund, and what expenditures were made from this fund?
5. What percentage of the money distributed by the foundation went to student scholarships and academic programs?
6. How much money did the foundation give to the university’s athletic programs?
7. What reporting requirements are demanded from these foundations by their boards, the universities and colleges and the state regents, legislatures and governments?
In short, we need a much more accurate profile of this vast universe of private foundations: their assets, their priorities and programs, the activities they support and the extent to which their boards and state regents are holding them accountable.
Should this huge network of foundations be permitted to operate as private institutions supporting but not a part of public universities and colleges, and therefore immune from the latter’s transparency and accountability requirements? Or should they be absorbed into public universities and colleges as fund-raising entities subject to state regulations? If one could start from scratch, one could easily make the case that the second alternative would be in the best interest of taxpayers and the public. The entrenched nature of these foundations and political realities, however, would probably doom any such radical restructuring of the system.
But state legislatures, with major public support, should demand that these private foundations are publicly accountable, free of self-dealing and no longer the incubator of special perks for administrators and athletic departments. The Internal Revenue Service should alter its regulations and practices to make certain that these foundations serve the public and the universities and colleges they are supposed to support. It’s a challenging task, but the time to begin is now.
Pablo Eisenberg is a senior fellow at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute and a columnist for The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
In 1981, Grey Poupon took the nation by storm. Although the little-known Dijon mustard had been manufactured for more than a century, in the early ’80s it went from a minor six-figure business to a retail powerhouse.
Most people remember the famous TV ad in which one Rolls-Royce pulls up next to another. An aristocratic-looking passenger rolls down the back window to ask, “Pardon me. Would you have any Grey Poupon?”
In the cities where the ad ran, sales of Grey Poupon shot up 40 to 50 percent -- a remarkable leap in the largely static condiment sector. Today, the Grey Poupon success story is frequently invoked as a highly successful “rebranding,” and an example of a singular advertising triumph.
Within the retail world, plenty of products have had their sales driven up, and their images buffed, through focused ad campaigns and catchy slogans: Don’t Leave Home Without It (American Express), Just Do It (Nike), and Got Milk? (California Milk Processor Board).
These successes -- reinforced today by the hit cable TV show “Mad Men” -- have led to an onslaught of branding consultants currently setting their sights on American universities. Many of these firms, battered by the recession and seeing higher education as a wealthy untapped sector, are coming to a campus near you.
The primary problem with their pitch is that it undervalues the very essence of a large educational institution. Universities are, by definition, complex, decentralized, multidimensional places with many disparate audiences. To attempt to rebrand these institutions as if they are one-dimensional retail products is to misunderstand what makes them exceptional.
Some university leaders are eager to buy the promise of a quick fix. The branding consultants tap into a low-level frustration on nearly every campus -- “No one knows how great we are” -- and make flashy presentations that promise fast results.
These campaigns provide all of the trappings of success: highly varnished collateral materials and new websites, all stamped with a focus-group-tested tagline. Internal constituencies are put through a time-consuming discovery process, which helps achieve a sense of internal buy-in, even if the effectiveness of the “deliverables” is suspect. In the end, most of these efforts are like Chinese takeout: initially satisfying, but with no long-term nutritional value.
So, if empty branding campaigns aren’t the answer, what is? For most institutions, a sustained and thematic flow of credible messages to your key constituencies will produce real results. Three principles should drive this approach:
Build on strong facts: Bob Dylan said, “All I got is a red guitar, three chords and the truth.” Without denigrating Dylan’s guitar chops, it’s fair to say that he relied primarily on the truth. University marketing and communications programs should do the same.
Effective marketing (or public relations -- the terms mean different things to different practitioners) should be thought of as an accelerant. It’s the lighter fluid we pour on a fledgling fire to create a full-blown blaze. As a result, even the strongest communications program will fail if it is not built on strong facts -- on the truth.
Within your institution, find three to five strong institutional assets -- the ideas, initiatives, and people that differentiate you from the rest. These could be research programs, student successes, or an innovative approach to admissions. The point is, you should fan the flames where you have the potential to outshine others.
In the late 1990s, I was appointed director of communications at Harvard Law School. At the time, Harvard Law was viewed by many as an elite institution coasting on its laurels. There were those who believed that Harvard Law, arguably the largest law school in the country, was too big and impersonal. The faculty considered shrinking the size of the student body; ultimately that proposal failed, and we decided that the school should embrace its bigness. A “legal metropolis” and “the New York City of law schools” were messages we began promoting. These efforts, combined with a public-service renaissance and tremendous fund raising success, helped Harvard Law reassert its preeminence. (Some might argue that a trained chimpanzee could enhance Harvard’s reputation. The truth is that it can be even more difficult to shift and update the image of an institution that is so deeply marbled in the public’s consciousness.)
Don’t give up on the press: A popular joke in media circles today is: “What do pimps and the newspaper industry have in common? Both are being put out of business by Craigslist.”
While it’s true that the financial model of the commercial media is being severely tested, many traditional news organizations still maintain significant readership. (The problem is that online readers don’t translate into the same kind of revenue that print readers do.)
For example, The New York Times actually has more readers today than it did a decade ago, if you consider print and online readers together. In 1998, the Times had 1.06 million readers of its print edition. Today, in part due to a top-notch web presence, the Times has more than 1.5 million print and online readers.
Even The Boston Globe, viewed in recent years as a news organization in serious trouble, has maintained approximately 460,000 daily readers when combining print and online.
Most important is that these and other news organizations remain credible sources of information. New research by the Nielsen Company shows that people have become increasingly savvy consumers of information. In a recent credibility-of-sources survey, Americans placed many forms of direct communication -- advertising, printed materials, mailings -- well below media coverage in terms of what they believe. The concept of “third-party validation” is still compelling.
Put in simple terms, a good article about your university in a national newspaper is worth more than a dozen paid display ads in the same paper.
Persistence pays off: When it comes to reputation-building, patience is indeed a virtue. So is persistence. An old rule in political campaigns is that voters should see or hear something about a candidate at least seven times between Labor Day and Election Day -- the homestretch of any election. The truth, for better or worse, is that most audiences require a steady drumbeat of consistent information to shape their perceptions.
In addition to sustaining the flow of information, use the “show, don’t tell” rule. Instead of producing print materials and web pages that tell the world how strong your programs are, show why this is true.
At Northeastern University, where I currently oversee marketing and communications, we are a leader in experiential learning, anchored by our renowned co-op program. Showcasing real students in experiential learning programs around the world will move the needle far more than dispensing platitudes about our leadership position. We have used this principle in recent newspaper ads designed to build awareness about our expanding research enterprise.
This steady, brick-by-brick approach has been used by a broad range of American universities (Duke, Emory, and Washington University in St. Louis, to name just a few) that have moved dramatically up the academic food chain. These institutions and their leaders made many tangible, undisputed good moves. But they are also each known for complementing these good moves with strong, sustained communications efforts.
To be fair, there are plenty of thoughtful, idea-based communications firms out there doing good work across different sectors. I differentiate these firms from the bumper-sticker branding agencies that focus solely on the sizzle, not the steak.
Whether or not your institution relies on outside counsel to promote itself, remember that you’re not selling mustard, Big Macs or running shoes. Your university is a churning, diverse and complicated place. Tell this story in a smart and truthful way -- with unrelenting persistence -- and you will succeed.
Michael Armini is senior vice president for external affairs at Northeastern University.
A foundation created by Western Kentucky University to manage its dormitories does not have the university's immunity from lawsuits, a Kentucky appeals court ruled Friday.
The ruling sends a lawsuit against the foundation back to a lower court for additional hearings, and the ruling could complicate the arrangements some public colleges have set up with foundations or related entities to manage some of their operations.