Tag Archives: endowment

The Next Corporate Tax Target: The University?

Here is a story in The Fiscal Times that may sound a distant warning to wealthy universities.  It raises a question that might sound repeatedly in the coming years: Since some private universities are so wealthy, why don’t they pay taxes?

As the article notes, last year was a good year for endowments.  Harvard’s climbed $4.4 billion (!) last year to reach a total of $35 billion.  Stanford’s went up 22 percent, Yale’s 21.9 percent, Penn’s 19 percent, and MIT’s 17.9 percent.  Because they are non-profit institutions, they aren’t taxed on those increases, leading some to wonder, in these tough times and in light of Federal debt, why?

Continue reading The Next Corporate Tax Target: The University?

Does Student Debt Really Matter?

IOU.jpgIn a recent essay in The Atlantic, Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus lament that most students have to take out college loans. They write: “At colleges lacking rich endowments, budgeting is based on turning a generation of young people into debtors.”

While Hacker and Dreifus blame the universities for encouraging students to take on more debt to pay for lavish facilities and other non-educational amenities, others focus on student debt itself as perhaps the key barrier to college facing millions of students from families with low and modest incomes. Indeed, entire organizations have been founded on that very notion, such as the Project On Student Debt.

Analysts who belong to the debt-is-bad school of financial aid policy are correct in noting that student borrowing increased dramatically in the past decade, ballooning 128 percent to more than $96 billion, according to the College Board’s annual survey of financial aid trends. On the other hand, federal grants and institutional grants mitigated the rising student debt. From 2000 to 2010, federal financial aid shot up 136 percent to more than $146 billion; and institutional grants rose 69 percent to more than $33 billion.

Continue reading Does Student Debt Really Matter?

Yes, $16 per Muffin

In 2009, reeling from the shrinkage in its $32 billion endowment, Harvard moved to slash costs by cutting back on the cookies served at faculty meetings. Eliminating the cookies, we were told, saved $500 per meeting, thus raising the obvious question of whether the Harvard faculty was obtaining its pastries from the wholesaler who supplied the $600 Pentagon toilet seats and the $434 Pentagon hammers.

But now Harvard and the Pentagon are off the hook: the New York Times reports that snacks at a Justice Department conference to train immigration lawyers in August 2009 cost taxpayers more than $16 per muffin, nearly $10 per cookie or brownie, plus $5.57 each for 1,334 cans of soda. The $500 cookie spreads are back at Harvard, by the way. Harvard investments are doing so well that the faculty can afford them once again.

Dartmouth Foils Its Donors

dartmouth_seal_text_top_web.jpg

It’s a constant skirmish between donors seeking to fund specific scholarly projects at universities and the universities’ administrators, who would typically like to see as much of that money as possible go to “unrestricted” uses–that is, whatever the administrators, not the donors, deem  the best use of the funds. And nowadays, with universities’ endowment values falling during the current recession, “best use of the money” can often mean covering deficits in the universities’ general operating budgets, deficits sometimes occasioned by wasteful spending on grandiose campus construction projects or–even worse in the eyes of some donors–ideological projects such as “diversity” and “sustainability” offices only marginally connected to the delivery of higher education.

Hence the recent and increasingly widespread phenomenon of the “levy”–a rake-off by administrators of a percentage of the income from endowed programs and endowed professor’s chairs, ostensibly to cover overhead and other “associated program costs,” as universities call them, but in fact a bit of naked budget-balancing. Such was the case in late May, when top administrators of Dartmouth College announced that it planned to increase, as of the fiscal year that began July 1, the percentage of its levy from 14.29 percent to 19.1 percent. Dartmouth administrators announced that the nearly 33 percent levy hike would raise $2 million that would have previously gone to endowment recipients but now would help close Dartmouth’s $100 million budget deficit.

Continue reading Dartmouth Foils Its Donors

Yale “Emasculates” Its Achievement Awards

Yale University has been scrambling to cut its expenditures by $350 million a year in order to deal with a 25 percent decline in the value of its endowment after the recent collapse of the financial markets: from a 2008 high of nearly $23 billion to less than $17 billion currently. Budget-cutting measures at Yale have included freezing salaries, reducing the number of students admitted to graduate programs, and changing the set-points on campus thermostats so as to reduce heating and air-conditioning costs. Now Yale proposes yet another tactic to reduce costs: Setting a $1,000 cap on the dozens of cash prizes that Yale awards each year to high-achieving students. The prizes, funded from gifts by Yale donors over the past three centuries, reward a wide range of student academic accomplishments, from top-rated performance in engineering or astronomy to writing an outstanding essay on Greek philosophy.
The proposed prize caps, announced in mid-March by Yale vice president and secretary Linda Lorimer, have generated quite a bit of opposition from students and faculty members—and for good reason. The caps amount to a subsidy by high-achieving Yale students to students of lesser achievements or perhaps no achievements at all. The idea, according to Lorimer, is that any overage above the base $1,000—and some prizes can top $10,000 thanks to returns on the investment of donors’ gifts–would go to offset the financial aid that the winning student might be collecting from Yale, and the freed-up aid would in turn fund more financial aid for Yale students in general. Since Yale long ago switched from a merit-based scholarship model to a need-based model keyed entirely to the student’s family income, the prize cap is essentially a transfer of funds specifically earmarked to reward academic merit to a program in which academic merit plays no role whatsoever.
Yale deputy provost Charles Long, in an interview with the Yale Daily News, termed the current prizes “a huge windfall”—as though the fact that the recipients of the prizes work hard to earn them were entirely irrelevant. It is true that many of the donors’ original gifts, some of which date back to the 18th century, have ballooned in size over the decades thanks to investment returns. For example, the Samuel Henry Galpin Latin Prize, now likely worth well into five figures annually (no one at Yale will say exactly how much), started out in 1901 with a $1,000 gift to Yale (about $23,000 in today’s dollars) from Galpin’s son, Samuel A. Galpin, Yale class of 1870, and the original prizewinners received only $50 (about $1,100 in today’s dollars). Yet Galpin, who was far from wealthy at the time of his death (he had studied for the ministry, but poor health led him to choose a civil-service career), specifically stated that the prize, representing the income generated by his gift, was to go to “the sophomore [at Yale] standing highest in a competitive examination in Latin.” Did Galpin really want the bulk of the income from his hard-earned donation to go instead to Yale undergraduates who might not know a single word of Latin?

Continue reading Yale “Emasculates” Its Achievement Awards

Dartmouth Turns on a Dime

I once asked a pilot friend if he didn’t tire of the lumbering, leviathan commercial airliner he flew. He surprised me by saying that a 747 can handle like a Lamborghini if ever it needed to.
A bit of that seems to be underway in Hanover, New Hampshire, where the new president of Dartmouth College, my alma mater, is responding with alacrity to the slackening economy. Even given the market’s nosedive, Dartmouth possesses a substantial multi-billion dollar endowment and employs nearly 2,800 full-time equivalent staff and 450 faculty. That’s a rather large organization—one now operating at a loss of $34 million.
But Dartmouth has one big asset: a group of Carl Icahnesque independent trustees who were elected by worried alumni in 2004, 2005, and 2008. These outsiders were vigorously resisted by Dartmouth—whose power establishment didn’t want activist directors—but the outsiders’ platforms of staunch fiscal conservatism and a leap out of the thicket of professional educrats won the day. After all, who needs a “Sustainability Director” or a “Dean of Pluralism”?
Alumni responded by their levels of giving, and Dartmouth’s former president, historian James Wright, responded by resigning his post early. In that position, now, is Jim Kim, the Harvard doctor who has never been the head of a major organization but who has now been thrown into a parlous billet.

Continue reading Dartmouth Turns on a Dime

Is an Endowment a Nest Egg or a Gambler’s Stake?

College investments dropped 23 percent in 2009, the most disastrous year since the National Association of College and University Business Officers began compiling investment statistics in 1971. Two observations can be made about NACUBO’s report, issued last week:
One is: The richer the institution, the harder the fall, generally speaking. Harvard, the nation’s wealthiest university ($26 billion at the end of fiscal year 2009), lost the most: nearly 30 percent. Yale, second wealthiest ($16 billion), lost almost as much as Harvard: almost 29 percent. It was a dreadful investing year for nearly every college endowment manager in the country, what with the deep recession and the twin collapses of the stock market and credit markets in the fall of 2008. According to the NACUBO study, co-sponsored by Commonfund, U.S. colleges and universities lost a total of $93 billion in endowment value during fiscal year 2009. The average loss was 18.7 percent; in 1974, the second-worst year, endowments lost only 11.4 percent. Not one of the nation’s five wealthiest universities, a group that included, besides Harvard and Yale, Stanford, Princeton, and the University of Texas System, bested that 18.7 percent figure (Princeton emerged at the top of the five, with its $13 billion endowment losing only 23 percent of its value in fiscal 2009, while Stanford lost nearly 27 percent and Texas nearly 25 percent).
According to a Jan. 28 article by Inside Higher Education’s Jack Stripling, smaller colleges with lower endowments fared better than their super-rich cousins only—or at least mostly–because their endowments’ relatively modest sizes barred them from either participating in the riskier investments such as hedge funds and private equity funds and also kept those schools from hiring the kind of sophisticated endowment managers who gambled their way into disaster. They were stuck, so to speak, with portfolios heavy on unadventurous investments in fixed-income securities and cash, which happened to be the only ones performing relatively well last fiscal year. After all, as Stripling’s article points out, the wealthy elite institutions that lost the most remained just as wealthy and elite, comparatively speaking, as they had been before the rolling economic crash that began in 2007—in part because their high-risk investments had paid off royally during the boom years. They thus outpaced their smaller poorer cousins over the long run despite the devastating blows to the rich universities’ endowments during the last two years. “Colleges with endowments over $1 billion have an average 10-year return of 6.1 percent, compared with 3.9 percent for the least wealthy,” Stripling wrote—even though the 52 institutions that fell into that category suffered higher-than average endowment shrinkages of 20.5 percent during FY 2009, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Continue reading Is an Endowment a Nest Egg or a Gambler’s Stake?

When Pork Goes To College

Most colleges and universities plan to tighten their belts during this recession year, what with shrunken endowments, curtailed donor gifts, and students and parents suddenly feeling too strapped to pay high tuition costs. Yet for a lucky few institutions—institutions with connections to members of Congress—this year will provide some unusual financial bonanzas, thanks to a 36-year-old federal education grants program that over the last decade has turned into a pork barrel for members’ favorite colleges and universities.
The bloggers at the Quick and the Ed have been tracking the House and Senate FY 2010 appropriations bills for the Fund for Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) and found that both bills allot the lion’s share of funding to earmarks benefiting specific educational institutions . That is not supposed to be the purpose of FIPSE, which was set up in 1973, with the backing of the Nixon administration, to fund innovative reforms in higher education. The awarding of the grants, by the U.S. Education Department, is supposed to be by open competition so as to reward genuinely innovative projects. But this year, FY2009, congressional earmarks and other mandates, including $7 million set aside by the Obama administration for a “special focus” grant competition available only to community colleges, have already eaten up nearly all of FIPSE’s $133.7 million budget, Inside Higher Education reported in June.. Earmark projects benefiting specific recipients, mostly colleges and universities, accounted for $91.2 million of that total. Indeed, as Inside Higher Ed noted, the department announced on its website that FIPSE’s open grant competition “will not be held in FY 2009 due to budget constraints.” The phrase “budget constraints” seems to be the Education Department’s nice way of saying “pet projects.”
The FIPSE appropriations bills for FY 2010 currently pending in the House of Representatives and Senate contain 173 and 110 earmarks respectively. A partial list of them posted on the Quick and Ed blog makes for entertaining reading. Here are a few of the tastier pork tidbits in the congressional education barrel, many of which appear to be connected to innovation only in the loosest sense of that word:

Continue reading When Pork Goes To College

The Cambridge Empire Strikes Back

By Harvey Silverglate With Kyle Smeallie
Harvard University may be losing money like a hard-luck high-roller, but the Vegas tagline (what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas) certainly does not apply: what happens at Harvard reaches well beyond the Cambridge confines. For better or for worse, many schools follow in Harvard’s footsteps. What better place, then, to effect change in American higher education than a place where other schools—at least until the recent economic meltdown—have been green with Crimson envy?
Such was the premise behind my insurgent campaign for a seat on the Board of Overseers, one of Harvard’s two governing boards. Dismayed by the lack of principled oversight (a key reason, I suspect, for Harvard’s recent financial woes) and the general illiberal culture of his alma mater, I spent months trying to convince alumni to elect me to the board. In early June, however, Harvard officials informed me that my bid for a six-year term on the 30-member board came up a bit short.
In defeat, I learned the very same lesson that Harvard Law School alum Barack H. Obama (Law School class of 1991) learned when he ran as a petition candidate in the 1991 Overseers election: Input from outsiders—those unwilling to place collegiality over candor—is unwanted.

Continue reading The Cambridge Empire Strikes Back

Don’t Cut The Sacred Cows

A modified version of this piece appears today in the Washington Examiner

Georgetown University, like many colleges and universities hit by the current economic downturn, is in what look like dismal financial straits. The value of Georgetown’s endowment shrank 25.5 percent last year, to $833 million, the annual deficit it has been running is estimated to climb to $37.8 million this fiscal year with little abatement in the near future, and donations are expected to be down–and likely to fall further if President Obama’s proposal to reduce tax deductions for charitable gifts takes effect. So Georgetown’s president, John DiGioia, like many another college CEO these days, recently announced a plan to cut costs.

The nature of DiGioa’s proposed cost-cutting, however—freezes on salaries, delays in filling vacant positions, and a hold on the construction of a planned science center—seem anemic in the face of the university’s obvious financial problems. That’s probably because Georgetown’s desire to trim its budget is running smack into the reality of campus politics, in which every program, silly, overstaffed, or non-essential as it might seem to outsiders, has an aggressive constituency ready to raise the pitchforks in its defense. Harvard, for example, facing a projected 30 percent drop in the value of its massive $38.5 billion endowment, announced in February it would trim the ranks of its contract janitors—not even Harvard employees—by a few dozen, leaving some Harvard buildings a shade less spic and span. The upshot? A series of student protests, denunciations by the Service Employees International Union, and on March 23, a unanimous condemnation of Harvard by the city council of Cambridge, Mass. Georgetown clearly doesn’t want to go down that road.

Private businesses might shrug off such negative publicity, but most universities are sensitive to their images as repositories of progressive values. So there is a long list of campus sacred cows that can’t be nicked by the budget-cutting knife without an uproar. One is tenured faculty. Tenure means having a job for life, no matter how lackadaisically you perform it or whether the department in which you teach attracts many students. The University of Texas Medical Branch laid off 30 of its 127 faculty members, many of them tenured, after Hurricane Ike devastated its Galveston campus last year and forced the temporary closing of its main teaching hospital. The Texas Faculty Association is now suing the state university system to force the professors’ rehiring.

Continue reading Don’t Cut The Sacred Cows

Endowments Are Still Massive–So Spend

Many people think the colleges and universities are overreacting to the sharp drop in their endowments. Lynne Munson, former deputy chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, is one of these critics. In a letter (subscription only) to the Chronicle of Higher Education, she argues that higher ed endowments haven’t lost much value if you put the recent drop in context of the astonishing gains of the last few years.
She writes: “College and university endowments increased, on average, 17.2 percent in the 2007 fiscal year and 10.7 percent in 2006. Taking compounded gains into account, these funds went up more than 26 percent just in the two years preceding their recent decline. And endowment increases at wealthy schools soared far past those averages. Harvard and Yale Universities increased the size of their endowments 45 percent from 2005 to 2007.
“So how concerned should we be that higher-education endowments have suffered a dramatic loss? The answer is: not very. Today college and university endowments are basically worth what they were in 2005. In other words, they’re massive….Being concerned about the value of college and university endowments today is a little like worrying about whether Warren Buffett still has enough inheritance to share among his children.”
The real problem, Munson argues, is that colleges will cite their recent losses to justify cutting endowment spending. Before the market drop, the colleges had come under heavy pressure from Congress and the public to spend at least the minimum payout required of private foundations–five percent.
In a recent survey, 27 percent of colleges and universities said they would decrease endowment spending while only 1 percent planned an increase. Munson writes: “This is the absolute reverse of the reaction they should be having at a time when students and families need help — particularly since colleges still have plenty to share.”
Munson currently studies college and university endowments for the Institute for Jewish and Community Research.

The Trouble With Cutting College Costs

Harvard University, trying to trim its operating budget in the face of a projected 30 percent decline in the value of its endowment stemming from the current financial meltdown, announced its intention to cut 13 of the 27 janitors who service its medical school and an unspecified number of custodial workers elsewhere at Harvard residential facilities. The result: two student protest rallies on March 5, including a march to the office of university president Drew Gilpin Faust during which Harvard students joined union organizers and labor activists in chanting such slogans as “Hey, Harvard, you’ve got cash, why do you treat your workers like trash?” The affected employees don’t even work for Harvard; they collect their paychecks from a pair of independent firms to which Harvard subcontracts some of its custodial work. Nonetheless, Harvard undergraduate, law, and medical students turned out to support the protest, declaring (as one medical student told the Harvard Crimson) that they had the “power” to force the university to reconsider the planned personnel reductions.
The Harvard protests—in the name of protecting the jobs of perhaps a few dozen people who aren’t even on the Harvard payroll—exemplified the thorny political problems that college and university administrators face as they try to cut costs during this economic turndown without feeding bad publicity-garnering campus showdowns. Their job isn’t enviable. The University of California’s Berkeley campus, for example, decided that one way to cope with a projected reduction of $65 to $75 million in subsidies from the nearly insolvent state of California would be to halve the size of its physical education program, which offers academic credit to students who enroll in such courses as team sports, aquatics, and dance. Since educating minds, not bodies, is presumably the primary mission of a university, UC-Berkeley’s effort to save $250,000 nest fall semester by trimming a peripheral department and putting some of its full-time faculty on part-time status ought to be non-controversial. Not so. Students and phys-ed faculty at Berkeley have launched a letter-writing campaign and Facebook protest to preserve the department at full strength.

Continue reading The Trouble With Cutting College Costs

Harvard Endowment Plummets, Bonuses Continue

The Boston Globe reports that Harvard alumni have written to President Faust asking that, given the recent drop in endowment value from $36.8 billion to $28.7 billion, the latest bonuses paid to the fund’s managers be returned. The five highest-paid executives earned between $3.4 and $6.9 million during the last fiscal year. Those aren’t especially high figures compared to private sector earnings, but, as the alumni aver, the endowment’s recent direction doesn’t exactly suggest management worth rewarding.
For more on the backstory to these glittering endowment falls, look to our own “Ivy-Covered Hedge Funds” by Joe Malchow from December.

Happy Holidays

Happy holidays to our readers. We’d encourage you to catch up on material from recent months:
Wondering how to read College rankings? – When College Rankings Are A Marketing Ploy by Edward Fiske.
About the collapse of endowments? Ivy-Covered Hedge Funds by Joe Malchow
Looking for current arguments in the SAT debate?
Downgrading SATs Makes Sense by Peter Sacks
and
Does the SAT Predict College Success? by Peter Salins
And much more – check out our essays and keep informed.

Robertson V. Princeton — Who Really Won?

The nearly six-year-old lawsuit between the heirs of donors Charles and Marie Robertson and Princeton University over who controls the assets of the Robertson Foundation has been settled. Princeton has now acquired most of the Robertson Foundation’s endowment, enabling it to exercise control over the foundation’s assets, which amount to between $600 and $700 million, or six percent of the university’s endowment.

But the case may well send a signal to other donors to be extremely wary of the gifts they make to colleges and universities. We’ll never know what would have happened at a trial. But the evidence clearly shows that Princeton was increasingly brazen in its efforts to use the Robertson Foundation’s wealth for causes other than which it was intended. Princeton’s conduct shows that universities want donors to have as little say as possible about how their contributions will be used.

As part of the settlement, Princeton agreed to pay $40 million between 2009-11 to the Banbury Fund, the Robertson family foundation who paid the Robertsons’ legal fees. In addition, Princeton has agreed to donate $50 million between 2012-19 to a new nonprofit designed to fulfill Charles Robertson’s intentions in helping to train students for government service. In return, the Robertson Foundation will be dissolved, and its funds will be fully integrated into Princeton’s endowment.

Continue reading Robertson V. Princeton — Who Really Won?

Princeton Settles With Robertson

The details of the suit are not entirely clear from early reports, but the 6-year suit between the Robertson family and Princeton over the alleged misuse of their endowment has come to and end in a settlement. Princeton is providing $40 million to pay the legal fees of the Robertson family, establishing a $50 million foundation to prepare students for government service, and has pledged to dedicate the remaining funds to the support of the Woodrow Wilson school. The endowment will be dissolved, and replaced by a new university-controlled foundation (for fears about that, read our piece from last year) but substantively it looks like a victory for the Robertson family’s contentions about how the money was being used.

Endowments Plummet, Salaries Cut

Harvard’s Endowment has suffered a staggering eight billion dollar loss, or a loss of at least 22% in the last four months. That’s the worst endowment drop for Harvard in 40 years, and dwarfs most comparable recent plunges in University endowments. Read on.
Given uniformly dolorous news in the financial sector, it’s encouraging to see that the Stanford Provost and President have taken a 10% salary reduction, and each Stanford dean has pledged additional salary cuts, reports the Stanford Daily.

Two Speeches at Harvard

Harvard president Drew Faust spoke at the ROTC commissioning ceremony, a controversial act on a campus where hostility to all things military is entrenched orthodoxy. The question hanging in the air was: will she tarnish a celebratory moment by taking the opportunity to denounce “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” or perhaps irritate the anti-military crowd by not mentioning the issue of gays in the service at all? Answer: neither. She finessed the issue with a deft bit of rhetoric: “The freedoms we enjoy depend vitally on the service you and your forebears have undertaken on our behalf. Indeed I wish there were more of you. I believe that every Harvard student should have the opportunity to serve in the military, as you do, and as those honored in the past have done.”

In comparison, Faust’s speech the next day to the Harvard Alumni Association, was defensive and a bit clunky. In deploring the chorus of politicians and critics who want the super-rich university to pay the equivalent of a hefty tax from its $34 billion endowment, Faust made the point that some of that money is restricted to certain causes, like the acquisition of meteorites and plants that reproduce by spores. This raises the question of how big a dent in the $34 billion is caused by the annual hunt for meteorites and exotic plants. Faust didn’t say. She did mention that a third of the university’s annual $3 billion operating budget is supplied from the endowment.

The implication was that raiding the endowment each year is necessary to meet annual costs. But Jim Manzi, entrepreneur, executive and blogger at The American Scene points out that Harvard makes money through investment returns on its General Investment Account, which currently includes about $6 billion of investible assets in operational accounts in addition to the $34 billion endowment, and that money doesn’t get reported as income. Last year that investment income came to more than $7 billion. Manzi writes: “Viewed purely in terms of economics, Harvard is really a $40 billion tax-free hedge fund with a very large marketing and PR arm called Harvard University that has the job of raising the investment capital and protecting the fund’s preferential tax treatment.” Look for the campaign to tax Harvard and other wealthy universities to gain momentum.

Show And Tell For Rich Universities

Now that the Senate finance committee has requested – the New York Times said “demanded” – that the nation’s wealthiest colleges and universities supply detailed information about their endowments and financial practices, it seems clear that college cost is emerging as a long-running, popular and bipartisan issue. The request/demand came in a stern but polite letter from committee chairman Max Baucus and ranking Republican Chuck Grassley. It asked 136 colleges and universities to supply answers in 30 days to a long laundry list of questions about tuition rises, spending and the handling of endowments.

The euphoria over Harvard’s plan to grant financial relief to students from families earning up to $180,000 a year, since followed by similar announcements from Yale and Dartmouth, is long gone. Criticism of the three rich Ivies is increasingly caustic. Lynne Munson of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, calls Harvard’s reform plan “miserly,” and Richard Vedder, head of the Center, wrote a Washington Post op-ed headlined, “It’s a Start, Yale. Now do Something Serious.” Several critics have labeled the announced reform plans “chump change” and denounced the wealthiest schools for decades of hoarding of endowment monies.

Munson points out that the new financial relief offered by Harvard amounts to a mere day and a half of earnings on the university’s $34.9 billion endowment. Even so, other universities are even more addicted to penny-pinching. The University of Michigan, one of two richest public schools (along with the University of Texas) gives its 40,000 undergraduates only $61 million in aid, half of what Harvard spends on its 6,600 undergraduates.

Many critics argue that aid for students is small in relation to spending on compensation for university presidents, new stadiums, and dubious expansions of administrative officers, including the new and mostly pointless “diversity deans.” Luxury housing on campuses is becoming an issue as well. Vedder calls attention to Princeton’s new Whitman College (named for a donor, eBay executive Meg Whitman) that cost $388,571 per room. Vedder wrote for the Washington Post: “Taxpayers may ask why should Whitman get a multimillion dollar tax break building a luxury hotel for children of mostly wealthy Americans?”

The Senate finance committee letter launches the project of generating reliable information on the historically shrouded financial practices of colleges and universities. Grassley said that answers “will help Congress make informed decisions about a potential pay-out requirement.” In other words, cooperate or else.

Antioch: Gone

Antioch College, of fame for strident sexual interaction policies, and Abu-Jamal commencement speeches, has ceased to be.

American colleges are not in the habit of disappearing, but then, there are few colleges anything quite like Antioch, as Peter Wood today notes in What Happened To Antioch? on the site today. In a universe of left-inclined colleges, Antioch was really something tremendous:

So a plain and simple answer to “What happened to Antioch?” is that the college is no longer financially viable. The administrators admit that Antioch’s $36.2 million endowment cannot cover the shortfalls. We live, however, in a nation where over 16 million students attend college and in which many colleges that have pretensions to academic seriousness have long waiting lists. In this environment, colleges and universities can get away with offering programs of tic-tac-toe levels of triviality; and they charge tuitions equivalent to buying a new Prius twice a year – with no trade-in.

In other words, for a college to go under, it is not enough for it to be intellectually bogus; it has to take its misfeasance to a spectacular level. It has to get parents, in effect, to what might be called the “anyplace-but-Antioch” moment; and it has to persuade a fair number of otherwise curious students, “Maybe I’ll enlist instead. How bad can Baghdad be?”

Read the full account of Antioch’s curious history.