Friday, February 23, 2018

Let them eat cakes ... the college edition

Conan O'Brien commented that when he was contacted by fundraisers from his alma mater, Harvard, he asked them why Harvard needed more when it already had plenty in the bank. (I am lazy to track down a link; do that yourself, dear lazy reader!)

Harvard's endowment was $37.1 billion back in July.  I assume it has increased in value even more since then.

The university where I teach also has an endowment.  The amount is--sit down before you read this--about $15 million.

Go ahead, and do the math to figure out the ratio of Harvard's endowment to my university's.  You don't have to have a Harvard degree for that simple arithmetic!

Public universities like the one where I teach are rapidly being gutted because of a lack of taxpayer support.  Meanwhile, the uber-rich continue to donate to institutions like Harvard, which is where typically the rich and the powerful pursued their education.
the disproportionate fundraising dominance of the top 20 institutions shows no signs of abating. According to the CAE, these schools—the top three fundraisers were Harvard, Stanford and Cornell—raised 28.1 percent of all 2017 gifts.
Pause for a while to think about it.  Three already phenomenally affluent institutions were the recipients of more than a quarter of all the money that was donated in 2017.
Their success stands in contrast to ongoing divestment in state universities and community colleges, raising recurring concerns about the issue of funding inequality across the higher ed space. And while the discrepancy is rather stark, it should be viewed within a larger context.
The poor students at the lowly public universities and community colleges can go eat cakes!

Meanwhile, the paper that always celebrates competition and the free market applauds the decimation of the small public universities as survival of the fittest in which "U.S. Colleges Are Separating Into Winners and Losers."

Rich people's kids go to good elementary and high schools. They then go to "winning" colleges and universities.  These college graduates go on to make a lot a money, on which they want to pay as little tax as possible.  You know, the taxes that make it possible for poorer students to go to college.  Instead of paying taxes, those wealthy folks would rather donate to their rich colleges and universities.

Like I have always said, choose your parents well! I did--I chose my affluent educated Brahmin parents, thanks to which I lead a comfortable life!  So long, suckers, if you chose to be born to poor and marginalized parents!


Ramesh said...

Well, its all a question of perspective.

Your university has an endowment of $15 million ? FIFTEEN MILLION ?

Madras University has an endowment probably of negative 15 m. I can't crib about disproportionate funding for your university compared to "mine". We simply have to focus on what our needs are and go out and raise funds.

Does not take away the merit of your argument, but its a nudge to you to go more global and less American :)

Sriram Khé said...

"I can't crib about disproportionate funding for your university compared to "mine"."

You can't crib in your right-of-center political philosophy that opposes redistribution. Those of us who are even a tad left of that center, leave alone in far-left, worry a great deal about the inequality that exists right from the moment that we are born, and the inequality that the system reinforces. The Harvard endowment is an example of that inequality.

The solution is not in going "more global"--as long as political borders are held sacred and free flow of humans is controlled (in total contrast to the free flow of capital and goods) then inequality has to be dealt with by people within those borders. So, the world cannot solve my university's or the U. of Madras' problems--only the citizens of the respective countries can.