Press Releases | Philanthropy

Teaching of Traditional Liberal Arts Receives an Untraditional Boost through Special Purpose Funds

Fund for Academic Renewal launches five new funds to support outstanding liberal arts and sciences programming through targeted grants
June 16, 2017 by ACTA

WASHINGTON, DC—The Fund for Academic Renewal (FAR) has created five Special Purpose Funds, designed specifically to help individual donors pool their resources with those of others who want to support much-needed liberal arts and sciences programs. The Special Purpose Funds are designed specifically to strengthen donors’ voices in advancing excellent collegiate liberal arts programs and fostering intellectual openness on campus.

“The liberal arts and sciences are struggling on most campuses right now. Concerned alumni are worried about anemic academic requirements, trivial courses, and overt attempts to suppress controversial views out of concern for political correctness,” said Jacqueline Pfeffer Merrill, Ph.D., executive director of FAR. “Alumni want to direct their dollars to intellectually-serious programs that offer preparation for life and career. These Special Purpose Funds will connect donors with faculty champions who can help translate their interest in the study of traditional liberal arts into outstanding campus programming.”

A survey conducted by the research firm GfK found that 82% of respondents agree that colleges should require students to take courses in fundamental subjects such as U.S. history, literature, writing, foreign language, economics, math, and science. Yet, for donors committed to the traditional liberal arts, there is a serious lack of campus focus on these core subjects, as numerous studies by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni have found. The Special Purpose Funds aim to turn this tide.

The American History, Government, and Statesmanship Fund will revitalize civic education by supporting important programs centered on American history, diplomatic and military history, and preparing students for informed citizenship.

The Western Tradition Fund will aid programs to help the next generation read and reflect on the writings and works of Western Civilization’s greatest thinkers, ranging from Michelangelo to Shakespeare.

The Science & Mathematics Fund will support programs that arm students with the quantitative reasoning and scientific literacy skills they need in the 21st century.

Likewise, the Economic Literacy Fund will help expand the study of economics. Currently, only 3% of colleges and universities require their students to take even a single course in economics, a most vital discipline in our globalized age.

FAR also will encourage efforts to foster open discourse and diverse views on campus through a fund focused on academic freedom. The Free to Teach, Free to Learn Fund will support grants to the institutes, speaker series, collegiate programs, and other initiatives that expose students to competing perspectives on important issues of the day, as well as to programs that focus on the First Amendment and the foundations of civil society.

These Special Purpose Funds complement FAR’s College Funds, which enable donors to pool contributions with other concerned funders to support programs and initiatives at particular colleges and universities, and FAR’s General Fund, which broadly promotes academic excellence and intellectual openness in higher education.

Thanks to the generosity of the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, 100% of all contributions will go directly to the intended higher education programs. FAR’s Donor Advisory Board, comprised of a distinguished group of higher education reformers, provides guidance and professional insight as FAR helps donors achieve their philanthropic goals, bringing to students the legacy of civilization’s greatest achievements.


The Fund for Academic Renewal, a program of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, is a go-to resource for higher education donors who want to make a difference. It is dedicated to helping conscientious donors make thoughtful gifts that have an enduring impact on higher education. 


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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