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June 04, 2015

Opinion: The Problem With a $400 Million Harvard Gift

Hedge-fund mogul John Paulson's $400 million donation to Harvard University showcases what's wrong with big higher-education endowments and the megaphilanthropy that swells them, according to Quartz.

The gift Wednesday to Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences exemplifies a trend of billionaires "eager to give money to institutions that clearly don’t need it," writes Matt Phillips, who reports on finance and markets for the digital business-news outlet.

Harvard, with a $36-billion endowment, is the country's wealthiest university. Mr. Phillips notes the increasing share of higher-education philanthropy going to a handful of elite institutions and suggests policy makers consider changing tax laws that may create incentives for them to stockpile massive endowments.

Mr. Paulson, a Harvard alumnus, drew criticism from other online commentators for giving so much to his wealthy alma mater rather than to programs to help the needy, The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Washington Post note. A Wall Street Journal editorial laid the criticism to "envy and snark" and said people "ought to salute [Mr. Paulson's] willingness to give so much of [his fortune] away, to whomever he wants."