To scrutinize the course offerings, faculty biographies, and finances of some of America’s oldest, largest and most prestigious universities is to arrive at two distinct and incontrovertible conclusions: these institutions are packed with people who (a) hate capitalism and (b) love money.
The latter of these conclusions was underscored quite dramatically by a February 12 press release from the U.S. Department of Education. Now, it must be said that some of us are of the opinion that this department should never have come into existence in the first place (it was established in 1979 by the Carter Administration) and that it has, from its earliest days, been nothing more than an outrageously expensive bureaucracy whose elaborate intrusions into the activities of schools and universities are illegitimate under the U.S. Constitution, although it exercises its authority over these institutions by tying compliance to federal aid.
Still, once in a long while the Department of Education does something that is genuinely positive. Which brings us to the contents of that press release. In it, the department announced that it was “launching investigations into both Harvard and Yale Universities after it appears both Ivy League higher education institutions potentially failed to report hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign gifts and contracts.” Under the Higher Education Act, institutions that are eligible for federal aid under Title IV are required to report such gifts and contracts if they exceed $250,000. Yet in practice only a small fraction of colleges and universities ever file such reports. What is particularly striking, moreover, is that while the humanities and social sciences departments of these universities are chockablock with courses about the evils of American empire and whatnot, the sources of the cash in question include some of the more truly loathsome regimes on the planet: “Qatar, China, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.”
Last year a Senate report found that during the years 2012-18, fifteen U.S. universities “reported receiving $15,472,725 directly from Hanban, a propaganda arm of the Chinese government”; a closer look at the universities’ private records, however, showed that they had in fact pocketed $113,428,509 from Hanban – over seven times the amount reported. In describing the systematic secrecy with which these universities’ shady finances are shrouded, the Department of Education did not mince words: “The largest colleges and universities,” it stated,
are multi-billion dollar, multi-national enterprises using opaque foundations, foreign campuses, and other sophisticated legal structures to generate revenue that is intermingled with domestic sources of funding from tuition, grants, and the like.
These colleges and universities actively solicit foreign governments, corporations, and nationals for funds although some donors are known to be hostile to the United States and may be seeking to project “soft power,” steal sensitive and proprietary research and development data and other intellectual property, and spread propaganda benefitting foreign governments.
Although foreign money generally flows into the largest and richest colleges and universities, such money apparently does not reduce or otherwise offset American students’ tuition costs.
That last point is an important one. The endowments of Harvard and Yale are $40.9 bn and $25.4bn respectively; annual tuition at these universities averages $46,000 and $53,000. They do not need money from Communist China, the largest totalitarian entity in the history of humanity and the most potent enemy that America has today. But the administrators who run these institutions nowadays – people whose predecessors, generations ago, were preoccupied with giving students first-rate, well-rounded education – have no higher priority, it would appear, than accumulating money, no matter how unsavory the source or how questionable the strings attached.