WASHINGTON, DC—On December 7, Emily Koons Jae, director of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni’s (ACTA) Fund for Academic Renewal (FAR), provided testimony for a hearing of the Higher Education and Career Readiness Committee of the Ohio House of Representatives regarding Senate Bill 135. The bill, introduced by Senator Jerry Cirino in March 2021, reforms certain aspects of Ohio’s higher education system, including a section on charitable giving. It was passed by the Senate in June and was referred to the House.
The provisions in Senate Bill 135, if passed, would give Ohio’s public college and university donors the standing to sue in limited circumstances if institutions failed to uphold the terms of restricted gift agreements.
Unfortunately, universities too often agree to restricted gift agreements but later fail to meet the provisions. For example, Ohioan Jeffrey Moritz, son of the late Michael Moritz, testified before the Ohio Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee in May 2021 about his late father’s gift of $30.3 million to The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. Though Michael Moritz’s gift agreement clearly stipulated that the university should award 30 full-tuition scholarships annually, the Moritz family discovered that the university had only been awarding 12–15 scholarships each year.
Currently, only the attorney general can restitute broken agreements. This bill would allow donors, or designated third parties, to file a complaint if the attorney general’s office fails to obtain “full compliance with the restriction” within 180 days.
In her testimony, FAR Director Emily Koons Jae wrote, “Oversight of the charitable sector falls on the shoulders of the state attorneys general, but, given their extensive responsibilities, these offices often lack the funding and capacity to enforce restricted gift agreements. . . S.B. 135 modernizes Ohio’s donor standing law and has the potential to make Ohio a leader for protecting donor intent.”
ACTA’s Fund for Academic Renewal guides higher education donors through the giving process to help them ensure that their gift fulfills their vision and values. FAR has advised on over $178 million in gifts to higher education.
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