Dr. Ali Eskandarian, Executive Director of ACTA’s Fund for Academic Renewal, spoke at the Certified Financial Analyst (CFA) Society’s Philadelphia conference to discuss higher education financing and philanthropy. He spoke on a panel entitled “Universities: Coping with Rising Costs, Falling Tuition, and Populism” that included a diverse set of viewpoints from the Urban Institute’s Sandy Baum, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s Will Creeley, and Conley Fleming LLP’s Marla Conley. The setting also gave ACTA an opportunity to engage with CFA’s, a new audience for our message.
(Photo credit: Lingzi Kong)
Dr. Eskandarian spoke on the duty of donors to uphold higher education’s promise, be it improving affordability and accessibility or preserving academic freedom and the liberal arts. As some elite colleges have experienced a boom, with steady enrollments, generous donations, and healthy endowment growth, many people are under the mistaken assumption that colleges’ finances are generally healthy. Dr. Eskandarian cleared up this misconception: Most institutions, in fact, are tuition dependent, and many have struggled in recent years. Philanthropy, therefore, is playing an increasingly important role in sustaining the financial health of our colleges and universities.
While encouraging higher education giving, Dr. Eskandarian emphasized the importance of a well-crafted gift agreement, as evidenced by recent controversies. The University of Alabama recently returned $21.5 million to Hugh Culverhouse, Jr., following disagreements between Mr. Culverhouse and the University about how his money would be used. The landscape for higher education philanthropy has drastically changed: Donors who wish to have an enduring impact can no longer write unrestricted checks, but must negotiate with universities to ensure that their intent is preserved. The Fund for Academic Renewal helps donors protect their intent, providing free counseling and legal review.