It’s nothing new for rich people to lavish money on higher education, often to influence the education provided young learners and to pay faculty for work product friendly to their causes. See the Walton campus of the University of Arkansas and its propaganda organ on school “reform.” (Reform being a loaded term meant to imply our way is an improvement when it may only be an ideological preference — see AsaCare and it’s supposed “reforms” to the existing Obamacare Medicaid expansion in Arkansas.)
Here’s a good example — the billionaires Koch. Already at work investing huge sums to take over the American political system, they are also spending big money on influencing higher education.
The Center for Public Integrity reports they put $23.4 million in into colleges and universities in 2014, an increase over previous years.
This increased funding in 2014 follows a recent Center for Public Integrity investigation that revealed the Koch brothers, Charles and David, consider the higher educational programs they fund a “fully integrated” part of a massive organizational network fighting to enact deregulatory government policies and elect conservative political candidates.
Why sure. Give money to colleges just for education’s sake? Let the research chips fall where objective inquiry might lead? Not on your life. When the Kochs give quids, they expect quo.
Almost all of the higher education programs the Koch foundations fund cleave to the brothers’ philosophy of promoting free markets and laissez-faire capitalism in the United States.
In some cases, the Koch foundations have attempted, or succeeded, in attaching certain strings to their contributions, such as control over curriculum, and more recently, obtaining personal information about students. Dozens of college officials interviewed this year by the Center for Public Integrity assert that their professors retain full academic freedom and may teach as they see fit, regardless of who is funding their programs.
We’ve been down this road in Arkansas. In fact, the Kochs are pikers. The Waltons paid $300 million to rent to own the University of Arkansas and additional millions to control various other tools of influence over education so as to push their vision of public schooling into reality in Arkansas. They are well on their way. $23 million is just tip money for the Waltons, which not only control higher ed output, but a lobby group, a putative research center and, by contribution, any number of charter school operations in the state.
But back to the Kochs. They have not ignored Arkansas. The Center for Public Integrity finds a little Koch money made it to Arkansas. $30,000 from the Charles Koch Foundation went to UA-Walton up in Fayetteville.
NOTED: Even the overall spending is a pittance against the almost $900 million the Kochs plan to spend in 2016 to rent out the American political system.