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Good investments

April 26, 2009

If your educational institution was given millions of dollars, with the caveat that you couldn’t go looking for the donor, would you go looking? Even just a little?

Thirteen university presidents that have accepted a combined $68 million over the past two months, with the condition that they cannot go looking for the donor, as well that a majority of the money in each case go towards scholarships for women and minorities students.

Outside of the second condition, the only other pattern for the universities recieving aid is that they are all lead by women. That’s not a coincidence. Almost all are public universities, with the exception of Kalamazoo College, in Michigan.

But what else ties these 13 colleges together? Did the donor(s) pick up a book of “American’s Colleges” and start flipping to random pages? I’ve tried to research what these institutions also have in common.

Endowments are down on average for all colleges chosen so far, but the change between 2007 and 2008 endowment levels, most directly effected of the recession, are mixed. Then there’s the clue that scholarships are asked to go to women and minorities, so I checked the demographics of each school. Again, no clear trends and another exception to the rule, Norfolk State College, which is a HBCU (historically black college or university). There might be a correlation between giving and a low ratio of aid to tuition, but that’s only if you consider out-of-state tuition at these institutions that make the distinction. This is even more perplexing, as generally, these universities don’t tend to pull students from outside their area.

And perhaps that’s the only similarity between all these colleges, other than the presence of a women president: obscurity. If you lived outside of New Jersey, what are the chances that you’ve heard of Montclair State? Purdue and University of Iowa, easily the most well known of the schools, are excellent research centers, but are less likely to come to mind when thinking about the big land grant universities.

With this theory in mind, I’ve gone through wikipedia’s list of college presidents (sadly, more updated than the last official survey of female presidents, from 2006), looking for schools, run by women, who are more likely to be the next recipients of this anonymous cash.

I’m not looking for the donor, although it’s fun to speculate. I’m looking for the possible next lucky school. Who stops at 13 when they’ve already given $68 million? All these schools, however, are run by women.

Good chance

  • University of Southern Maine (named a “good value” in annual rankings, much like CUNY-Binghamton)
  • CUNY – Hunter
  • Lehigh University (in PA)
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Weber State University
  • The College of New Jersey (at the bottom of this – there’s one chosen in NJ already)

Possible

  • Spellman College (None of the schools so far have been women only colleges, otherwise I’d put this one in the above list)
  • Wentworth Institute of Technology (or I hope a university with a 75/25 male-female ratio headed by a women would be a candidate)
  • West Virginia Wesleyan College
  • Salisbury University
  • University of South Florida
  • Harvey Mudd/Claremont McKenna

Probably not

  • Harvard University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Brown University
  • Barnard College
  • University of Michigan (two schools with far less name recognition have already been chosen in Michigan)
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Texas A&M (endowment is just too huge – across the whole system)
  • Bates College

Bruce Watson at Daily Finance has some similar, and completely different guesses at Daily Finance. I’m also interested if there is a women in science connection here, but I don’t have a good idea about exceptional science programs outside the usual suspects (MIT, RPI, etc.) .

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