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Beazley Foundation Places Moratorium on Higher Education Funding

Disturbing findings of new report prompt funder to demand focus on college standards and performance
January 31, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC—Following Monday’s release of a report outlining serious threats to affordability and quality in Virginia higher education, the Beazley Foundation, based in Portsmouth, announced it would suspend higher education grant making.

The foundation has given more than $75 million in support of Virginia higher education.

Judge Richard Bray, chairman and CEO of the Beazley Foundation, wrote to 25 grantees whose performance is documented in the report, announcing the suspension as a stand designed to stem “the departure of numerous institutions from the discipline of a core curriculum fundamental to education in the liberal arts.”

The report, “The Diffusion of Light and Education,” examines Virginia’s 15 public four-year institutions and 24 of the state’s private institutions to determine how they fare in several crucial areas: general education requirements, trends in tuition costs, instructional versus administrative spending, graduation rates, and freshmen retention.

The analysis that prompted the Beazley Foundation’s action was prepared by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit dedicated to academic excellence, with the support of the Beazley Foundation and other funders. The Beazley Foundation commissioned the report as guidance for its higher education philanthropy.

“The Beazley Foundation is committed to serving the students of Virginia,” said Bray. “But the data contained in this report show that we are, in fact, supporting rising costs, more administrators and a diffuse and incoherent curriculum. It should serve as a wake-up call to trustees and presidents to make certain their institutions are serving the best interests of our young people.”

Key findings from the study include:

  • The cost of tuition and fees totals more than 40% of Virginians’ median household income at almost half of the schools studied.
  • At most campuses, spending on administration is rising faster than spending on instruction.
  • Less than half of the 39 Virginia colleges and universities studied graduate a majority of their students in four years, and less than half meet the national average of 57.4% for a six-year graduation.
  • Only two private and two public institutions graduate over 80% of their students within four years.
  • Even as Virginia emphasizes STEM education, over a third of the institutions studied don’t require a single course in college-level math. Not one requires economics.
  • In the state where Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and James Madison served as college trustees, only two universities out of 39 require a foundational course in American history or government.
  • At most campuses, classrooms are in use far less than the expected 40 hours per week, suggesting inefficiency that will block progress toward educating more students.

Acting in response to the troubling findings in the report, the foundation’s trustees voted to place a moratorium on further grants for undergraduate liberal arts higher education in the commonwealth. In the future, the Beazley Foundation intends to condition its funding on institutional performance as well as established and worthwhile need.

“Philanthropists who want to ensure that their dollars are well spent are crucial to ensuring accountability and innovation in American higher education,” said Anne Neal, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. “The Beazley Foundation has modeled informed philanthropy by gathering the data it needs and resolving to fund only those initiatives that support its mission of creating better opportunities for the young people of Virginia.”


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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