A collection of articles, research, and commentary about the tax treatment of college and university endowments

Apr 30, 2020

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act levied an excise tax of 1.4% on the endowments of higher-education institutions that have at least 500 tuition-paying students and net assets of at least $500,000 per student. During his recent conversation with The Giving Review, nationally recognized tax-policy expert Dean Zerbe called the new tax a “wake-up call,” adding that “[p]eople are just furious at the colleges and universities across the board ….”

That fury may only be growing, and one can contemplate similar anger soon being expressed about other sizable endowments in other contexts, including philanthropy. As part of TGR’s “Collections” series, below is thus a small collection of selected articles, research, and commentary about the tax treatment of college and university endowments. Some of the commentary suggests harsher treatment.

Anticipating that it likely will be expandable moving forward, we may update the list periodically.


Sandy Baum and Victoria Lee, The Role of College and University Endowments, Urban Institute, July 16, 2019

Jeremy Bauer-Wolf, “Private colleges push back on ‘endowment tax,’” Education Dive, October 28, 2019

Will Chamberlain, “Seize the Endowments,” Human Events, March 30, 2020

Adam Harris, “A Tax on Endowments Became Law. But Congressman and Colleges Are Still Fighting It,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 8, 2018

Bruce Kimball, “A ‘Thoroughly Satisfactory And Permanent Remedy’: The Twentieth Century Invention Of The American University Endowment,” HistPhil, November 6, 2017

Frank Monti, “At the Witness Table in Congress: University Endowments,” Inside Philanthropy, September 20, 2016

John  S. Rosenberg, “Endowments: The Specter of Taxation,” Harvard Magazine, November 6, 2017

Zak Slayback, “It’s Time To Tax The University Endowments,” The American Conservative, April 18, 2020

Michael Stratford and Benjamin Wermund, “The new tax on Harvard,” Politico, December 22, 2017

Jonathan Trugman, “Top universities should be taxed under ‘tax the rich’ logic,” New York Post, December 7, 2019

Sara Waldeck, “A new tax on big college and university endowments is sending higher education a message,” The Conversation, August 27, 2019