We all know that a bribe is giving something with the intent to receive something in exchange- very often money for preferential treatment. A donation is an above board gifting of money or something of value for no purpose other than philanthropy.


Except in the light of the college cheating scandal, people are starting to question if donations are thinly veiled bribes.

Hmmmm….What do we think about families who give donations and expect that there children will get into a certain school…..What do I think about it….

Straight up: I have absolutely no problem with donations to colleges. I do not even put it in the same category as a bribe.

Colleges are non profit institutions. How do non profits typically receive money? In the case of colleges, we have tuition. Sure. Every student pays a tuition. But even at the ridiculous price colleges charge, it is not even close to being able to sustain the expenses that a college incurs. Salaries. Upkeep. Supplies. I want you to think about all the things at a college, and then tell me how much they cost…

Some colleges are State Schools and receive money from the state. This enables the school to have a lower tuition, but they still have all the same expenses…salaries, upkeep, blah blah blah…

Many colleges receive huge money from sports programs, television, merchandise sales. How do you feel about a school that uses subsidies from athletics to pay for things? Can you feel my tone from reading that statement? If you can’t I’ll tell you flat out: there was tone in that statement.

So how do colleges cover all their operating expenses?


Buildings are built on the backs of donations. Labs are made state of the art on the backs of donations. Dorms are given facelifts on the backs of donations. Look at any college/university and the majority of what you see is made possible by endowments and donations.

Scholarships are made possible because of donations. Financial aid is made possible by donations. If there are no donations, explain to me how people without the means to attend would possibly be able to attend?

So yes. Sometimes kids are admitted to a school because there last name is on a building. And very often that kid is not a stellar student. And you’re all thinking that that one kid took the spot of someone deserving of a spot.

I get that. I really do. My daughter was just rejected from ten schools that probably  admitted some undeserving students. No one gets this more than me.


I’m OK with the trade off of ten kids who have families that have donated millions to a school in order for that school making money available to help kids that have earned a spot in that institution but can’t afford it. Because that’s the kind of donations we’re talking about: millions. Not thousands. Millions.

People are questioning the alleged $500,000 bribe. They’re asking- if they had that much money, why didn’t they just donate to the school? And here’s the reality: 500m is not enough of a donation to get your child into a school. Not. Even. Close. It may seem like a lot of money to me and you, but if your kid is really a subpar student, it’s not enough. it’s not donation. It’s DONATION.

I know many are going to disagree with me on this. But before you flat out go against me, really think about what I said. How does a non profit make money to cover its expenses?



26 thoughts on “Bribe vs Donation

  1. It’s a fine line for sure. I just listened to an NPR interview with an author whose book claims that donations, in some cases, do more harm than good to the general college population. I was driving, so some of the conversation just buzzed around me, but I believe the gist of it was that 1) the richest schools receive a disproportionate amount of big dollar amount donations even though they educate by far the least number of students 2) the donations even then may benefit only a small % of students enrolled (an engineering building, for example, donated to a school only benefits those enrolled in that program.) I have no problem with donations, but I’d like to read the book this author was touting. If only I hadn’t been in traffic!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Stating that I haven’t read the book and I’m basing it off what the author summarized…ok. It’s sort of throwing the baby out with the bath water to throw the schools under the bus (gee…more cliches…) you can’t fault the richest universities for receiving the most donations. There’s something to be said that their graduates might make more money. I mean, it doesn’t go for everyone…anyone has the opportunity to make a lot of money…but year…Princeton graduates on average probably get paid more than someone from a lower profile school… and why aren5 graduates of lower profile schools giving more money? You can’t fault a school for its alumnae loving them and wanting to give afterwards. Secondly…isn’t the best donation one that comes from the heart? If someone feels that for example, engineering is the best thing for the future, why wouldn’t/shouldn’t they give money specifically for that purpose? If we start to pick apart how money is spent in any situation….I give money to cancer charities because most of my grandparents died from cancer. Should the people who,have other diseases be mad because that’s where I choose to put my money? I could go on but that’s a whole post!!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. We have to face the facts. Extremely rich people are able to do things that we can’t. Supporting colleges and hospitals is a big tax deduction, I’m sure. I really can’t get excited or upset over it. I would still rather live in a country that allows people to get rich than one that kills rich people, like Hitler did and Maduro in Venezuela.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. That’s a good post that ends with a good question:

    From Washington Post 2015

    “More than 800 colleges and universities across North America hold endowment assets of $516 billion. But the top 10 schools in terms of assets have about $180 billion of that total, more than one-third of all the holdings. Harvard University alone has a $35 billion endowment.

    None of that money, nor the gains on it — which at the top schools were about 16 percent last year — are taxed. As non-profit entities, neither are the extensive land holdings of the nation’s colleges and universities.

    Such benefits account for $41,000 in hidden taxpayer subsidies per student annually, on average, at the top 10 wealthiest private universities. That’s more than three times the direct appropriations public universities in the same states as those schools get. Princeton University, for example, receives $105,000 in taxpayer benefits for each of its students, compared to the $12,000 in appropriations that go to New Jersey’s public university, Rutgers.”

    Donations or tax dodge….flip a coin.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well….maybe the people at Harvard and Princeton are just smart enough to figure out the system😆….but….as to how monies are spent/delegated and tax implications? NYU is the largest employer in Nyc. Are they going to get substantial tax breaks? Sure. I’m guessing they own about a quarter of manhattan real estate…the university and all it encompasses bring a certain cachet as well. But….there’s also the thing with international students. Some of these schools have a large percent of students from foreign countries. Should their be state and local tax implications towards this? There’s a lot of facets to this…and I’m not sure how to handle it

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well…for sure nobody knows how to handle it, including the best and brightest who are schooled by the very said same institutions of society to watch over, and often obfuscate, just how these things are done.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I went to school the hard way by joining the Air Force. The Air Force provided all of the infrastructure for the schools to teach on base. it was very low overhead for them and it was very lucrative for the schools. my small university was the only state university that historically was always in the black because of that advantage.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. A matter of perspective with a lot of factors that have to be weighed. I major gift to a school from someone who has no children/grandchildren of an age for college: donation. An alum who regularly gifts financially with young toddlers at home: donation. A parent who makes a substantial gift just about the time they have a junior/senior in high school: ???
    Honestly this is a topic I haven’t followed much, but I know that it hits home for you/daughter. My kids all went to private state universities. All got scholarships (thank god!) and all had loans that even one is still paying on (nursing). We gave small gifts to specific programs while they were in school. An example: son was a music major so over the course of his 4 years we gave about $500 total specified to music scholarships. We started this AFTER he was accepted on his own. Now $500 is nothing of course. We viewed it as a thank you for the university helping him. They all had to make it on their own to begin with.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dr. Dre supposedly gave a large donation to usc several years ago and his daughter was accepted this year. I mean…who knows if the kid is qualified or not. Lots to think about

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I always think about a donation being from the alumni of a college. I don’t imagine I would pick a college for a donation if I hadn’t gone there. I certainly don’t have millions of dollars to give away either. Nice post.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I personally don’t have a problem with athletic departments helping to fund the rest of the school. That happens a lot with the school I went to, and without that funding, they wouldn’t be able to build the dorms and other facilities needed for a growing University. I do wish that philanthropists would donate more money to smaller schools. Harvard and Yale are doing fine. That little school somewhere outside of Ivy League and away from the coasts? Not doing so well, but could be amazing if someone would give them a hand.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sold on athletic departments. I get the capital infusion, but I’m iffy about the time commitment the kids put in and if they’re actually getting an education. There’s a school by kid applied to…top school….but they call it a take of two schools. On one end there’s thevrecruited athletes who really vary in academic ability, and the rest of the kids have stupidly high board scores….it’s like there’s no middle ground


  8. I know this is how the world operates, but it’s not fair. I know someone who donated $2 million to a school so his kids would be accepted. One was deserving, the other did not have the grades but was admitted anyway. It’s throwing your money around to get what you want.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Luckily, I can’t afford to donate millions to schools, so I don’t have to worry about the moral implications of having my relatives apply to the school I just gave big bucks to! Ha! But seriously, you have put your finger on the major problem with so many non-profits: they are dependent on donations. Which means the donors have to be catered to if they want to make ends meet, and sometimes that means decisions are made that are a tad questionable. It’s one of the main reasons I don’t necessarily believe that non profits are always morally superior to for-profit companies.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I know! There are no easy answers, which is something we aren’t exactly trained to cope with. Yet the older I get, the more I realize how few issues are truly “black and white.” I think most of life is lived in that middle, grey zone…


  10. I disagree, especially if the child is subpar and wouldn’t get in unless you’d given a donation. Perhaps, said child should attend a community college or take up a trade.

    And another way they make money is through grants (if they’re a research institution).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Grants are amazing. But Hopkins is going to explode due to the Bloomberg donation. But, that being said, this week is all about the whole college admissions rigamarole.

      Liked by 1 person

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