Gargantuan Endowments: Can They Help the Public Good? Yes.

Much has been reported and written about of late on how we are not helping low income students pay for higher ed. Recent studies reinforce the problems in higher ed costs and how monies are distributed. And, we see that elite institutions shift dollars to lure students who can pay. And, we are pondering all sorts of remedies to improve borrowing, including ISAs.

One topic that can enrich this discussion (literally and figuratively) is how to deal with large endowments — gargantuan endowments. A variety of options have been proposed but many miss the mark and produce unintended consequences.

That said, there is much that can be done that is worth considering and pursuing. If an institution has an endowment over $1 Billion or an individual gives to an endowment valued in excess of $1 Billion, perhaps it is time to think about that largess differently. Behavior can be nudged. Incentives can be adjusted. Good results can happen. See: https://philanthropy.com/article/Opinion-How-to-Steer-More/235734. Worth considering. Seriously.

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Author, Educator & Commentator; Former President, Southern Vermont College; Former Senior Policy Advisor, US Dept. of Education; Former Law Professor

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