By Richard Vedder
On several occasions, I have plugged a conference at the American Enterprise Institute on college endowments, taking place this morning (Friday, February 1) at 9:30 EST. Registration for the conference has passed 120, and allowing for some no shows and last minute additions, we expect 100 or so in attendance at the conference, organized by yours truly for AEI, where I am a Visiting Scholar.
The good news is all America can see this event. CSPAN will be covering it live, and, if tradition holds, showing it again at various other times (to be sure, perhaps 3 in the morning).
Based on a dinner party that we put on last night for some participants and a few friends in the higher education press, I expect the conference will be very lively. Lynne Munson and Dean Zerbe have indicated they will make a spirited defense of the notion that endowments are meant to be spent, and that a federal rule mandating minimum spending, similar to that facing other charitable organizations, is highly warranted. They will get some support from Professor Donald Frey, an economist at Wake Forest University.
Yet there is a spirited opposition to this view. Charles Miller, chair of the Spellings Commission, feels governmental interference in college endowment policies of colleges and universities is totally unproductive, and, in my view, he makes a pretty spirited and defensible case. Charles is loaded for bear on this issue. Feeling at least as strong as Charles, I suspect, will be Terry Hartle, Senior Vice President of the American Council of Education, and one of the doyens of the higher education Establishment.
In addition, we are releasing today a study: Federal Tax Policy Regarding Universities: Endowments and Beyond that I authored. It takes a rather balanced (by my standards, at least) approach, presenting some fascinating new data on the growing inequality amongst college endowments, historical data on endowment growth and decline (real endowments fell at most big schools from 1958 to 1980, for example), etc.
Join us for this event. And contact Bryan O'Keefe at 202 375 7831 or at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like a hard copy of my new magnum opus.