Should You Give to Harvard?

That’s the question that The Ethicist asks in The New York Times. Below, I present the issue and part of the answer. Read through it all and tell us where you stand on the issue.

The Issue

The fiscal year for major university endowments ended June 30, and schools have been reporting their results: not good. In the Harvard-Yale portfolio game, the latter was down 24.6 percent, while its rival lost even more, 27.3 percent. If you are an Ivy alum, this might seem a good moment to donate to your alma mater, to help rebuild its battered portfolio. But should you, given the power of education to improve people’s lives?

The Argument

Do not donate to Harvard. To do so is to offer more pie to a portly fellow while the gaunt and hungry press their faces to the window (at some sort of metaphoric college cafeteria, anyway). Even after last year’s losses, Harvard’s endowment exceeds $26 billion, the largest of any American university, greater than the G.D.P. of EstoniaBy contrast, among historically black colleges and universities, Howard has the largest endowment, about $420 million, a mere 1.6 percent the size of Harvard’s. (Donors gave Harvard more than $600 million just this fiscal year.) The best-endowed community college,Valencia, in Orlando, Fla., has around $67 million, or 0.26 percent of Harvard’s wealth. This is not to deny that Harvard does fine work or could find ways to spend the money but to assert that other schools have a greater need and a greater moral claim to your benevolence…  More here.

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