A few days ago, Timothy Egan wrote an op-ed for the NY Times about how universities should spend more on tuition relief:
Last year a record 76 American colleges passed the $1 billion mark in total endowments.
For all of that, you would think there would be some relief from tuition costs that have tripled in 20 years. Or that wealthy universities would be giving back, say, half as much as they are making every year. Or that they would not be charging $21,000 for an American student to live in a mud hut in Africa during a semester abroad. Or that they would give up their taxpayer-financed tuition grants so that more needy schools, dependent on the same pool of federal money, could put a student on scholarship. You would think.
“It’s fair to ask whether a college kid should have to wash dishes in the dining hall to pay his tuition when his college has a billion dollars in the bank,” said Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa. Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate committee that oversees tax policy, has written to the nation’s 135 leading universities, asking them to explain what they do with their tax-free endowments.
The response from nearly 20 percent of the nation’s top colleges has been — how dare you! They have refused, thus far, to answer basic questions about their tax-free finances. Others have made cosmetic changes, such as raising the income level for financial aid, to head off further Congressional inquiry and anger from middle-class families.
So what are colleges spending the money on? In other words, what are the areas where costs have skyrocketed for universities? I’ve tried to find these data and I haven’t had much success.