New college gift reporting guidelines bring globalization, ethics into focus

Dive Brief:

  • The Council for Advancement and Support of Education has updated its standards for colleges reporting donor money, adding directions and benchmarks for institutions based outside the U.S. 

  • American colleges are grappling with heightened scrutiny of gifts and contracts, especially from foreign sources. The Trump administration, in particular, cracked down on federal requirements for disclosing foreign money.

  • CASE’s Global Reporting Standards also renew focus on ethics in educational philanthropy. 

Dive Insight:

CASE overhauled its guidelines for the first time in more than a decade, which comes as colleges reckon with their histories of accepting donations from controversial sources. 

The public has challenged institutions, for example, over their financial ties to the Sackler family, the longtime owners of the pharmaceutical company that produced the addictive narcotic OxyContin and helped spawn the contemporary opioid crisis. Tufts University removed the Sackler name from its health science buildings in 2019. 

And the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was criticized for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from Jeffrey Epstein, the late, disgraced fiancer who was accused of sex trafficking young girls.

CASE’s guidance means to provide a set of common reporting standards and definitions for colleges. The updated version highlights ethical considerations early in the document. It also features a new definition of educational philanthropy, which in part notes that gift must come “without the expressed or implied expectation that the donor will receive anything more than recognition and stewardship as the result of such support.”

It added supplements for five regions outside the U.S. — Australia and New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Singapore and the United Kingdom — which enables colleges in those areas to compare themselves to American institutions. 

“In developing the first global reporting standards for the advancement profession, CASE has decided to make a statement about the power, impact and importance of philanthropy around the world,” Matthew Eynon, vice president for college advancement at Franklin & Marshall College and co-chair of the group that reviewed and updated the standards, said in a statement.

American colleges came under fire during the Trump administration for not reporting financial ties from other countries. The Trump Education Department started investigating 19 high-profile universities’ foreign financial ties. It also created a checklist for information about foreign donations and contracts that institutions need to submit to the federal government. 

The American Council on Education has said it intends to clarify institutional reporting requirements with the Biden administration.

Leave a Comment