Why Give Money To A College That Only Wants To Mock Your Values?

While you and millions like you work hard, save, take risks, invest, and create opportunities, the elitist knowledge factories we count on to turn out productive, well-trained workers and managers have been transformed into indoctrination centers.

How many times have you moved since you graduated college? Lots, probably, but somehow, they always find you.

If the FBI was half as successful at keeping tabs on wanted criminals as your alma mater’s fundraising office is at tracking every alumnus with a checkbook and a pen, the nation’s prisons would be overflowing.

As always, the plea for funding that magically finds its way to your mailbox is long on nostalgia for the wild and crazy days you spent as an undergrad. They shamelessly appeal to your sense of loyalty for the beloved institution and its myriad traditions.

What’s left out, of course, is any explanation of how the school can claim credit for enjoyable experiences that almost certainly happened outside of the classroom. What, after all, did school administrators do to earn your presumed loyalty?

Unless you matriculated at one of the literal handful of American universities where capitalism and free markets are no longer considered hate speech, the answer is little to nothing.

For starters, it’s profoundly dishonest for most institutions of higher learning to play the poverty card. In addition to the jaw-dropping sums a college or university charges for tuition—much of which is subsidized by taxpayers through public scholarships, grants, or guaranteed student loans—many universities could survive for generations charging no tuition at all on the tax-exempt or only very slightly taxed endowment funds they’ve already socked away.

Harvard University, for example, whose students pay $56,000 a year in tuition, is currently sitting on an endowment of $50 billion that’s doing much of anything but collecting interest. Yale has a tidy little $41 billion nest egg, and Stanford boasts $36 billion. Even tiny Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., whose 2,100 students fork over a whopping $60,000 a year in tuition, has an endowment slush fund of just more than $1 billion for a rainy day.

If Harvard, Yale, and Stanford invested their endowments into a CD that returned 5% annually, they’d bring in a whopping $6 billion per year. Imagine if they applied those gains to discounting their tuition. The cries from the left for free college education would soon evaporate. In fact, if Harvard spent its $50 billion endowment on tuition, undergraduate students could attend free for more than 100 years. Liberals have had the means of making college free for decades. Why must taxpayers do what Harvard refuses to do for itself?

Universities will tell you that these endowment programs are a way to build sustainable revenue without having to rely on you for continued donations. Yet, I’ve never seen one of these universities ask that you don’t increase your donation the following year. The reality is that their endowments have created revenue streams with no accountability to their alumni, donors, students, or taxpayers. Unaccountable pots of money spawned unaccountable university administrators. Their lack of accountability has led us to where we are today. That’s why university presidents refuse to condemn the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel. They’re unaccountable.

But of course, they want to have their cake and eat it too. They want alumni to fund their unaccountability, which is why you’re still being asked for $1,000 for the gender-studies program or whatever woke program they’re creating now.

Is the education you’re being asked to subsidize worth it? Not only has the quality of education at the school where you labored deteriorated to the point where it’s undoubtedly sending graduates into the workplace having learned embarrassingly little, what they have learned directly mocks the values and institutions that put you in a position to perpetuate the whole unaccountable enterprise in the first place.

Instead of marketable job skills, modern college students graduate with resentment, entitlement, and an inflated sense of self-worth. Rather than learning how to produce something of value for others, they’re taught by narcissists to be narcissistic. They shun difficult fields like engineering and mathematics, gravitating to “soft sciences” like sociology and gender studies, then wonder why employers won’t pay them a six-figure salary to spout pseudo-intellectual gibberish.

But the students aren’t to blame. The real blame rests with professors and administrators who’ve spent their whole tenured lives in the cloistered halls of academia never once having to soil their hands with the dirty business of creating, manufacturing, marketing, selling, or profiting from a good or service a wage-earning adult would voluntarily purchase.

Liberated from this burden, academics are free to hold in contempt those who traffic in products rather than ideas and delusions of superiority. While you and millions like you work hard, save, take risks, invest, and create opportunities, the elitist knowledge factories we count on to turn out productive, well-trained workers and managers have been transformed into indoctrination centers. Our children are taught that those whose sacrifices and ingenuity have made this the richest, most-just nation on earth are racists and economic oppressors whose values must be scorned and rejected.

And as part of your penance, you’re expected to write a check to keep the whole corrupt conga line moving. Why are we funding the very thing in the public realm that we abhor in the private sector?

By definition, an investment is expected to generate a financial return, while a donation is good for the soul. Handing your hard-earned money to a college or university lacking any accountability or sense of shame does neither. This makes college a dubious investment for modern students and a terrible idea for donors.

Unless your gift is restricted to fund only projects that celebrate your values rather than actively undermining them or is given to a university that doesn’t believe in endowment funds—as opposed to using funds to benefit students right away or in the near-term—you’re far better off donating to a para-educational organization that shares your ideals and endeavors to advance them.

It’s your money, and you have every right to use it on good work, rather than bad ideas.

Is it still possible to get a quality college education in this country? Certainly. But to a greater extent than ever, it happens in spite of, rather than because of, the entrenched education establishment.

This article first appeared in the Giving Review on February 8, 2024

Aaron Withe

Aaron Withe is the chief executive officer of the Freedom Foundation.
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