The incomparable Corey Robin, writing for The New Yorker:
In academia, as in the rest of society, a combination of public and private actors directs wealth to those who need it least. While cuny struggles to survive decades of budget cuts—and faces, in the pandemic, the possibility of even more—donors lavish elite colleges and universities with gifts of millions, even billions, of dollars.
The piece is an eloquent corrective to the explicit, and otherwise implied, fixation of pandemic-related discourse on a small band of wealthy private universities. Robin notes that the cries of impending budget doom, even closure (in the case of tuition-dependent private colleges), leave out the control we ultimately have:
Yet these choices are not dictates of nature and economics. They are political and historical, arising from years of decision and indecision, which have slowly, sometimes imperceptibly, shifted the burden of higher education from public to private sources. The tax subsidies for big gifts to Harvard and Yale find their counterpart in the proportion of revenues that public colleges and universities now derive from tuition. Though this shift has been going on for decades, 2017 was a watershed: it was the first year that public colleges and universities began to receive more revenue from tuition than from the state.