CASE Statement on Sen. Wyden’s College Admissions Fairness Act
The recent U.S. admissions bribery and fraud scandal has led to important conversations about wealth, economic inequality and college access. As these conversations continue, it is important to remember that philanthropy plays a critical role in increasing access and affordability at higher education institutions nationwide, particularly at a time when governmental funding for higher education has been reduced.
While we understand that Senator Wyden’s intentions are to address the issue of fairness, his bill is misguided. The bill perceives a problem and addresses that perception in a drastic way – by significantly limiting the charitable giving incentive for those with the means to make transformational gifts to institutions unless the institutions agree to a federal mandate to prohibit consideration of philanthropy as a factor in admissions.
We strongly disagree with Sen. Wyden’s assertion that giving to colleges and universities is transactional – that donors make significant gifts for access and in exchange for their children to be admitted into an institution. We know from our members that donors are motivated to support institutions they care deeply about. They give out of gratitude for life -changing experiences with an institution and because they are passionate about its programs and mission. This is especially true of donors who make large, transformational gifts. They make those gifts to institutions where they have strong relationships and deep trust.
In introducing the bill, Sen. Wyden assumes that institutions, admissions and advancement officers do not act in an ethical manner. Quid-pro-quo gifts are not only unethical, but also are outside of the professional guidance and practices CASE espouses and that our members support. Advancement professionals take their jobs seriously and we encourage them to abide by the CASE statement of ethics and principles of practice for fundraising.
Admissions decisions are complex and nuanced. However, philanthropic giving should never be the sole criterion, nor would it ever be acceptable as a quid-pro-quo exchange.
We welcome the opportunity to work with Sen. Wyden’s staff to discuss the vital role of philanthropy and how we can all work together to increase access and success in higher education.
CASE believes in advancing education to transform lives and society. As a global nonprofit membership association of educational institutions, CASE helps develop the communities of professional practice that build institutional resilience and success in challenging times. The communities include staff engaged in alumni relations, advancement services, communications, fundraising, government relations, marketing and student recruitment. CASE is volunteer-led and uses the intellectual capital of senior practitioners to build capacity and capability across the world.
CASE has offices in Washington, D.C., London, Singapore and Mexico City. Member institutions include more than 3,600 colleges and universities, primary and secondary independent and international schools, and nonprofit organizations in 81 countries. CASE serves more than 90,000 practitioners. For more information about CASE, please visit www.case.org.