National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) President and CEO Susan Whealler Johnston, Ph.D., today issued the following statement in response to the recent college admissions scandal and the subsequent proposal from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) to end tax breaks for college donations.
“NACUBO is angered by the cheating scam wealthy individuals utilized to get their children into selective colleges and universities.
While NACUBO shares in the public outrage, we cannot support knee-jerk reactions that inappropriately presume a lack of integrity in advancement, admissions, and compliance at our nation’s institutions of higher education and threaten to curb charitable giving.
In response to the scandal, Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden announced plans on March 13 to introduce legislation that curtails tax benefits for donations made to colleges and universities ‘before or during the enrollment of children of the donor’s family.’
Wyden’s proposal misses the mark: This scandal is about individual entitlement and greed—the Department of Justice (DOJ) indictments were not a condemnation of the tax-exempt status of America’s esteemed colleges and universities. Wyden’s approach is impulsive and misguided, ultimately penalizing students, researchers, and other beneficiaries of higher education by drastically diminishing the ability of colleges and universities to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions.
Charitable giving, and the associated tax benefits that encourage donors to contribute, is fundamental to the health of a college or university and fuels their commitment to providing a quality higher education. From small-dollar contributions to large gifts, these donations are critical to an institution’s ability to fund scholarships. Charitable gifts also provide important funding sources for faculty, libraries, laboratories, student services, and other components that are key to a student’s education.
The DOJ is rightly pursuing punishment of unlawful behavior, the colleges involved have dismissed indicted individuals, and investigations are ongoing. Bribes are illegal and the nation’s justice system is responding to those unlawful acts.
Legislation that would diminish the ability of all colleges to provide quality higher education, opportunities for upward mobility, and a lifetime of value to millions of students would be a severely misguided step in the wrong direction.”
NACUBO, founded in 1962, is a nonprofit professional organization representing chief administrative and financial officers at more than 1,900 colleges and universities across the country. NACUBO's mission is to advance the economic vitality, business practices, and support of higher education institutions in pursuit of their missions.