Gifts to Ivy League Schools More Self-Serving Than Philanthropic?
Thanks to Scott Jashik at Inside Higher Ed for pointing PhilanthroMedia to a compelling opinion piece by Walter M. Kimbrough, president of Philander Smith College, entitled, "The Perpetuation of Priviledge." Here's a taste:
I am becoming less and less tolerant of people who pass wealth on to the privileged and masquerade it as philanthropy. Philanthropy is the voluntary act of donating money, goods or services to a charitable cause, intended to promote good or improve human well being. When a billionaire gives money that will benefit people who are more than likely already well off or who already have access to huge sums of money, attending the ninth richest university by endowment, this is not philanthropy. This simply extends the gross inequities that exist in our country — inequities that one day will come home to roost.
Almost 40 percent of all college students nationally earned a Pell Grant, which in general represents students from families earning less than $35,000 a year. Yes, almost 40 percent of students in college today are from low income families. At Columbia, where tuition and fees alone tops $31,000, only 16 percent of students are Pell Grant eligible. In fact, over 60 percent of Columbia students don’t even bother to apply for federal financial aid. They can pay the bill — no problem (see the Economic Diversity of Colleges Web site). Columbia is not alone. A recent New York Times article, which provided a great story on a recent Amherst College graduate, indicated that 75 percent of students attending elite colleges come from the top socioeconomic quartile, while only 10 percent come from the bottom half, and just 3 percent from the bottom quartile.
For comparison, 83 percent of my students received the Pell Grant during that same year, and 84 percent applied for financial aid. Even with tuition and fees less than $9,000 a year, my students on average will leave college with MORE debt than Columbia students, in fact $11,000 more even though tuition and fees are $22,000 a year less!
What's great about this piece, and makes it worth the time to check out, is the robust dialogue which follows it. I've never seen a better example of how a new media format can advance thoughtful dialogue. I'm not sure where you will come down on Kimbrough's premise, but the give and take you will find there is worth the price of admission. And if you feel like logging into the debate, be sure to bring back at least a copy of your comments to PhilanthroMedia. We need your comments like Philander Smith College needs your philanthropy.