President Trump used his daily virus briefing on Tuesday to slam Harvard University, a wealthy “Ivy League” college, famous for catering to the blue-blood elite. They tried to greedily glom on to almost $9 million in misdirected stimulus funds. Harvard’s leaders decided to change their mind after it was obvious that public opinion was totally against them. Harvard is going to pay back the money.
Elite college backs down in face of Trump’s fury
Harvard University is one of eight powerful “Ivy League” institutions with students who almost exclusively represent the global aristocracy. The schools’ graduates include 8 U.S. presidents and at least 30 world leaders. The students of this college don’t come from homes where the families are living paycheck-to-paycheck. That’s what made President Donald Trump so angry.
“Harvard’s going to pay back the money,” the president declared. “They have one of the largest endowments anywhere in the country, maybe in the world, I guess, and they’re going to pay back that money.” Trump threatened that if they didn’t hand the money back, “then we’ll do something else.” The president was adamant. “I don’t like it at all. This is meant for workers.”
Harvard seized on that statement to justify keeping the money, whether they need it or not. They quickly tweeted back, admitting they got “$8.6 million as part of the historic $2.2 trillion package.” They also admitted, “President Trump is right that it would not have been appropriate for our institution to receive funds that were designated for struggling small businesses.”
Even so, the check they got had nothing to do with the “Paycheck Protection Program,” they argue. That’s the one intended for “small business relief.” They still intended to hand out what they got, promising “100 percent of the funds” would go to students “facing urgent financial needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Considering the school’s enrollment demographics, that can’t be many.
The school is very well ‘endowed’
According to the official college paper, the Harvard Crimson, “the university’s endowment is the largest of any in the world,” it was last valued in 2019 at $40.9 billion. Because of the economic impact of the virus on the markets, its down a little these days to the mere “mid 30-billion range.”
Somehow, checks meant to help ease the pain of struggling colleges and universities that cater to the middle and lower classes of Americans were inadvertently mailed off to the wealthy institutions too. As soon as the controversy erupted, Stanford was quick to issue a refund.
As Education Secretary Betsy DeVos explained Wednesday, “Stanford University had withdrawn its application for funds.” She tweeted a dig noting “Harvard and other wealthy institutions should follow Stanford’s lead.” Princeton was quick to agree. They have more than enough money for their student’s needs and they know it.
“Wealthy institutions that do not primarily serve low-income students do not need or deserve additional taxpayer funds,” DeVos pointed out in a statement. “This is common sense. Schools with large endowments should not apply for funds so more can be given to students who need support the most.”
Harvard took the hint. On Wednesday, college officials announced they “will not accept funds from the federal government’s stimulus package.” That doesn’t stop them from suggesting how the government should spend it. They “will encourage the Department of Education to reallocate the money to Massachusetts institutions that are struggling to serve their communities.”