Giving Ventures Podcast: Ep. 57 — Where Higher-Ed Donors Can Still Give

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On the latest episode of Giving Ventures, DonorsTrust Vice President Peter Lipsett talks with Hans Zeiger, president of the Jack Miller Center. Zeiger shares how he’s sounding the alarm on government-funded universities and what conservative charitable givers can do to promote pluralism, defend American values and develop principled academic leaders.

Zeiger Called Attention to Overpriced Cost of Higher-Ed When State Legislator

A former member of the state senate in Washington, Hans Zeiger for years has been sounding the alarm on the high cost of higher education, whether at publicly funded universities or otherwise, and demanded more transparency around the issue despite blow-back from university administrators.

“Frankly, higher education costs too much. And, so, I tried to call attention to that. I tried to figure out, ‘How can we have more transparent cost accounting for higher-education spending?’ and, boy, when you start to raise that issue, the institutions freak out,” says Zeiger.

The team at the Jack Miller Center is likewise pushing back against the artificially high cost of higher education. The Pennsylvania-based nonprofit, moreover, is dedicated to building up college educators who understand the importance of liberty, equality and opportunity.

Americans in Wake of Pandemic Lockdowns Question Value of Traditional Degree

As Zeiger points out, students during the pandemic discovered that they can save a lot of money by earning a degree online and that they were unnecessarily being price-gouged by various colleges and universities, many of which actively undermine American values.

“More and more Americans really are right now questioning that value proposition — when, all of the sudden during the pandemic, courses went online and the many thousands of dollars that the families were paying for higher education, you know, you could’ve spent much less …”

The result, says Zeiger, is that there will be much more pressure on colleges and universities to add value and usher in a new era of affordability in higher education— this for elite and non-elite institutions alike. Otherwise, colleges will shutter as people seek alternative career paths.

Zeiger: More Colleges, Universities will Close Their Doors in Years Ahead

A former adjunct professor of political science at Seattle Pacific University, Zeiger says he anticipates more colleges and universities, especially smaller ones, will shutter in the months and years ahead as their numbers drop and as donors stop bankrolling higher-education institutions.

“There were fifteen colleges that shut down in 2023 — mostly small, private colleges that just could not put together the financing to stay afloat and I think we’re going to continue to see more of that. We have market-oversaturation in some parts of the country.”

Part of the problem, he says, is that colleges and universities endeavor to be “all things to all people” and perpetuate at “atmosphere of relativism” when, instead, college and university administrators should narrow their focus on home in on the pursuit of truth in academia.

“Truth is really not valued in most higher education these days and I think those who are going to be the winners and who are going to be able to differentiate themselves from this ‘All things to all people’ model that has predominated are going to be those who says ‘We value truth.’”

Plea to Donors: Support Talent Pipeline of Scholars Devoted to Founding Principles

Alumni support of higher education varies. Some make generous donations to their alma mater but, generally, alumni giving in recent years has dropped. In 2023, for example, alumni giving decreased 13 percent over the previous year. Hans’ wish? That givers shift their charitable focus.

“My plea to donors would be ‘Let’s also think about the talent pipelines for faculty and leadership in our universities that cannot be neglected if we want to secure a better future for higher education — that values the liberal tradition …”

The team at the Jack Miller Center, for example, is cultivating a talent pipeline that, so far, comprises 1,100 scholars and higher-education administrators devoted to the American political tradition — namely, the ideals that make America a shining city on a hill.   


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