I asked Harvard directly about these funds, and spokesman Jason Newton replied that “the school is just a pass through” to needy students. Newton further argued to me that approximately 80 percent of Harvard’s endowment funds are “restricted” and “must be spent in accordance with terms set forth by the donor.” As for the less than 20 percent of its $30 billion-to-$40 billion endowment that is “unrestricted,” those funds, and I am quoting Harvard here, “are critical in supporting structural operating expenses and transformative, strategic initiatives.”
To this University of Wisconsin graduate, there’s nothing more transformative or strategic than helping your own students with your own money. Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford graduates are sprinkled throughout Washington, in Congress, on the U.S. Supreme Court and in top positions in the executive branch. These schools are synonymous with our national elites. The newly unemployed, waiting in line at food banks, are not interested in the funding formula that sent money to these elite schools. They are hungry and worried about mortgage payments or rent. They have every reason to think the system is stacked in favor of those with the right connections — and against them.