A study by the fiscal transparency advocate Open The Books released an eye-opening study on how many government handouts Ivy League universities receive on an annual basis.
Since 2010, taxpayers have shelled over $41.59 billion in payments and funding for these elite universities — around $6.93 billion annually. Specifically, the schools got $25.73 billion in direct payments through contracts, grants, and student aid.
A number of these federal grants facilitated the study of topics like “the influence of women’s employment on marriage in Bangladesh,” “ethics in Tanzania,” “wintering grounds for gold-winged warblers,” “urban black men who have sex with men and women,” and the question “what does health insurance do.”
The schools also received special tax breaks on their endowments, which equal $119.41 billion combined. Every Ivy League school has an endowment well into the billions, with laggard Brown University at $3.2 billion and leader Harvard’s at $35.7 billion.
Startlingly, the eight colleges individually collected more money from the federal government than sixteen states, including Nevada, Kansas, and Vermont.
Tuition, including room and board, at each school costs over $60 thousand a year, except for Princeton (by far the richest Ivy when measured by endowment dollar per full time enrolled student) which is a bargain at $57.6 thousand. According to the study’s authors, the collective endowment value “is equivalent to a full-ride scholarship for all Ivy League undergraduate students for 51-years, or until 2068.”
Currently, the Ivy League keeps 47 administrators who rake in more than $1 million per year on its payrolls. Two executives at the schools earned $20 million between 2010-2014.
In that same five-year period, the schools spent $17.8 million on lobbying over issues related to “their endowment, federal contracting, immigration and student aid,” the study said.
A number of politicians on both the left and right have targeted the endowments of Ivy League schools in recent years. Republican Congressman Tom Reed, who was a vice chair of President Trump’s transition team, warned wealthy colleges last December to spend more of their endowments on financial aid or lose their tax breaks.
Democratic lawmakers in Connecticut are considering proposing a law that would tax schools with endowments greater than $1 billion. Yale University, an Ivy League, is the only institution in the state with an endowment that large.