AICAD response to Senator Wyden’s statement on limiting philanthropy to colleges

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March 22, 2019

Dear Senator Wyden,

The Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD), a non-profit consortium of 41 leading art and design colleges and universities in the US and Canada, shares your outrage at the alleged college admissions cheating and fraud recently uncovered by the FBI’s Operation Varsity Blues. We additionally do not support the oft-discussed “back door” to admissions, taking very seriously an ethical approach to both admissions and advancement in our institutions.

We strongly encourage you to reconsider your recently announced intent to introduce legislation that would “end the tax break for donations made to schools before or during the enrollment of children of the donor’s family.” Such a broadly stated limitation could have a dramatic chilling effect on all philanthropy to the higher education sector, impacting the students and families you aim to serve. Institutions like ours depend greatly upon such philanthropy, much of it small gifts from alumni who desire to contribute back to their alma mater, to fund scholarships and other institutional aid. It is that philanthropy which enables our institutions to provide access to low-income students as defined by Pell Grant eligibility, who at many of our institutions make up more than 40% of the total student body.

We do support all colleges and universities adopting ethical gift acceptance policies that protect a air and equitable admissions process. Our concern is that legislation that embodies the statement you’ve made could limit alumni and family giving that is core to supporting the educational experience. Please do not punish the many for the greed and illegal acts of a few. We trust that is not your intention and urge you to reconsider proposing such legislation.


Deborah Obalil, President, Association of Independent Colleges of Art & Design