This is a waste of money in a few different ways:
Harvard University raised a record $1.16 billion in donations in a single year, beating rival Stanford for the first time in a decade. Harvard’s haul, the largest ever in higher education, represents more than the entire endowments of all but about 70 U.S. colleges. Stanford came in No. 2, with $928 million, its third-biggest total, according to a survey by the New York-based Council for Aid to Education, which tracks university giving. The gifts to Harvard show that the nation’s wealthiest colleges are attracting a disproportionate share of higher education philanthropy, cementing their competitive positions, even as less fortunate universities find their finances weakening as they look for customers to afford soaring tuition. Such inequality is growing, said Ronald Ehrenberg, an economist at Cornell University. “The richer institutions are pulling away from everyone one else in terms of their endowment resources and the vast annual giving sums they generate, much of which goes towards building their endowments,” Ehrenberg said. “At poorer places, you need the money for current operating and also for construction projects.”
This is bad for education in general since the money goes to a few institutions that represent relatively few students.
This is bad for equality, as the article notes, since a few students get a much better education while most of the rest of the students get a worse education.
We’re paying for this. Since these are all non-profits they don’t pay taxes and the donors get a big tax write off. There really does need to be a change here– we should not be subsidizing places like Harvard.
I also don’t understand the mentality of the donors–if you want to make a difference and be recognized, it would be much better if you gave to several less wealthy universities. A large gift to Harvard would only make an incremental change–if you break that into 50 smaller donations you could make much larger changes for many more students. The only way I can understand this is if the point is to show off to the other wealthy people.