By Caroline Simon
A newly released report
sheds light on enormous sums of money the federal government provides to Ivy League universities — and how that money is handled.
The report comes from Open the Books, an organization that aims to make public spending more transparent. It concluded that in the six fiscal years between 2010 and 2015, a full $41.59 billion of the Ivy League’s money could be traced back to taxpayer-funded payments and benefits.
To put that in perspective, the average amount of money that the eight Ivy League schools received annually over that time period — $4.31 billion — exceeds the amount of money received by 16 of the 50 states.
The report also examined Ivy League endowments, which are some of the largest in the country. Penn’s endowment for 2015 was the fourth highest, at $10.1 billion. In 2016, it climbed to $10.7 billion
The Ivy League’s total endowment is around $120 billion, which amounts to about $2 million per undergraduate student. A sum of that size could give every Ivy League student a full ride for the next 51 years.
Penn’s endowment is invested in public equities, fixed income, hedge funds, private equity, real estate and natural resources. Though the endowment has grown consistently, that doesn’t translate directly to increases in spending — according to Penn’s Office of Investments
website, University spending follows a formula developed by the Board of Trustees that "balances the desire for current income with the need to protect long-term purchasing power."
Because Ivy League schools are nonprofit institutions, they don’t pay taxes on any investment gains their endowments might make — which saves them a lot of money. Between the 2011 and 2015 fiscal years, the Ivies received a $9.6 billion tax break on the $27.3 billion growth of their collective endowments.
At the same time, they receive money from the government for a number of purposes. Ivy League universities, which sponsor a wide variety of cutting-edge research, receive millions in federal grants for research projects.
Between 2010 and 2015, the eight schools received $23.89 billion in federal grants and $10.6 billion of which came from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health.
Other sources of grant money were the National Science Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy.
The report broke down $10 million in federal funding that went towards sex-related research, which included Penn projects ranging from "Injury in Latina Women: Variability in Anal, Genital & Oral Injury in Women – Consensual Sex" to " Skin Elasticity and Skin Color: Understanding Health Disparity in Sexual Assault."
Research grants and contracts weren’t the only forms of government support for Ivy League schools. The government also provides various forms of aid grants to colleges — in the six-year period the report investigated, Penn received $20,362,715 for the federal work-study program and $33,155,056 in Pell Grants.
The report also showed the comparatively low state funding Penn receives. While Cornell received $98.91 million from New York in 2015, Penn received just $19,233.
However, Penn spends the most on lobbying out of any Ivy League university — $5.3 million, a full 29 percent of the total Ivy expenditure on lobbying.
Penn also comes out at the top in total compensation paid to faculty and staff. Between fiscal years 2010 and 2014, Penn paid its employees $13,822,616,999. Penn also had the most employees with compensations higher than $1 million — 23.
Penn President Amy Gutmann, who earned $13,134,942 between 2010 and 2014, was highlighted in the report as part of a case study in highly paid university administrators.
"Ivy League affiliations run deep for University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann, who graduated from Harvard University’s Radcliffe College before teaching and serving as provost at Princeton University, marrying a Columbia University law professor and raising a daughter who would go on to teach chemistry at Princeton," the report said.