Round Table on University Wealth Hoarding

University Wealth Hoarding & the U.S. Student Debt Crisis: A Round Table

September 29, 2016

New York City

Since the neoliberal turn in the 1980s, tuition at U.S. colleges and universities has climbed astronomically, while public funding for higher education has plummeted, forcing millions of young people to assume huge amounts of debt for the mere right to compete in stagnant job markets. The burden of debt is burying a generation, with devastating collateral impacts on indebted students’ parents, children, and spouses, as well as on the economy at large.

Meanwhile, university endowments hoard wealth: annual alumni and major donor gifts are at all time highs, endowment returns consistently beat the market average, universities hold vast amounts of profit-generating real estate, endowment assets are increasingly invested in opaque hedge funds and private equity firms, and the notoriously aggressive management of endowment assets generates huge fees for Wall Street financial advisors, consultants, and managers. If that weren’t enough, many of the oldest endowments were built with money from the slavery-fueled Triangle Trade. This vast endowment wealth has not, however, translated into expanded access to affordable, quality higher education for most people in the U.S. Instead, the wealth is hoarded.

All this is happening university executives are paid extraordinary sums and the administrative class balloons in size. Universities outsource staffing and engage in union busting. Faculty tenure is under attack with dire implications for intellectual freedom and faculty well being, as fulltime faculty lines are replaced by low paid, insecure adjunct positions. Their athletic teams rake in huge profits for the institutions and their corporate sponsors, yet student athletes remain unpaid, ultra-exploited, and can end up injured without a degree. Universities are major landlords, often the largest in town, yet as non-profits they receive massive tax breaks. 

What is the significance of wealth-hoarding endowments in the context of the student debt crisis, inflationary tuition, and other neoliberal university practices? Who stands to lose and gain from this set of policies? What can be done to stop university wealth hoarding and corporatization? How can an analysis around university wealth hoarding help build the unity and power of student, alumni, and working people’s movements in the U.S.? And what should these movements be demanding of universities if we are to create a more just world?

Please join the Responsible Endowments Coalition for a roundtable discussion on September 29, 2016 to explore these questions, centered on a white paper developed by the Croatan Institute.

Let us know if you would like to attend by contacting REC at [email protected].


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