Wealthy Ivy League universities have received $45 billion from the federal government over the past five years, according to an audit by watchdog organization Open the Books.
“Today, these ‘educational’ non-profits are more federal contractor than they are educator,” the organization says in its report.
The cash influx has come in the form of federal payments on contracts, grants, and special tax treatment of their endowments.
“Their $33 billion in federal contracts and grants outpaced their collection of undergraduate student tuition,” the report says.
Additionally, the schools gained another $12 billion in special tax treatment benefits on the growth of their endowment gains, which totaled $237 billion in 2022 — a $65 billion increase from 2018.
The universities received even more benefits and subsidies not accounted for in this study, including billions of dollars in benefits from state and local sources.
Most of the funds (roughly $29 billion) were provided through federal grants — which are giveaways where the recipient university owns the work product and can profit directly from the resulting intellectual property — unlike contracts, where the government owns the output.
The analysis found that the universities benefitted roughly the same under both the Trump and Biden administrations.
During the last three years of the Trump administration, wealthy universities received between $6.4 billion and $6.7 billion annually. In the first two years of the Biden administration, the colleges received between $6.7 billion and $6.9 billion.
There has been much controversy over billions of dollars in subsidies going to U.S. universities, as the report explains, given “many of these schools have received attention for left-wing agitation and advocacy from students and administrators alike in the past five years,” including recent “responses to the October 7th attacks on Israel by the Hamas terror group.”
Additionally, there have been objections over large sums of money going to what some call “frivolous” projects and areas of study, including:
- $4.173 million in 2022 for Cornell to “increase the number of minoritized faculty in the biological, biomedical, and health sciences” through a partnership with NIH.
- $2,984,994 from 2018-2021 to Stanford from NIH to study “sex hormone effects on neurodevelopment in transgender adolescents.”
- $2 million in 2018 from the Department of State to University of Pennsylvania to “support the preservation of cultural heritage sites of minority communities in northern Iraq.”
- $1,851,075 from 2018-2020 to Stanford from National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study how college students are impacted by the “retail environment for tobacco and marijuana.”
- $721,177 in 2022 from NIH to University of Pennsylvania to use “disadvantage indices to address structural racism and discrimination in pandemic vaccine allocation.”
- $600,000 in 2022 from USAID to Yale to study the “impacts of mobile technology on work, gender gaps, and norms.”
As Open the Books details, policymakers and U.S. citizens are now asking whether college and universities are operating in the public interest or their own special interest.