Academic Lobbying: Ivy is not the Only Green for Universities

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—Generally speaking, the nation's colleges and universities portray themselves as institutions engaged only in the pursuit of knowledge. So who would have guessed that universities are some of the biggest lobbyists in Washington D.C.?

Apparently, the green of money matters every bit as much as the green of ivy to institutions of higher learning. Academia seems to be driven by the pursuit of the dollar as intensely as the profit making corporations many professors deride.

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The Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) is a nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit organization which tracks money in American politics and its effect on elections and public policy. CRP wants to educate voters and make government more transparent and responsive.

For this purpose it operates a website, OpenSecrets.org. As CRP describes it, OpenSecrets.org is the "award-winning website...which is the most comprehensive resource for federal campaign contributions, lobbying data and analysis available anywhere. And for other organizations and news media, the Center's exclusive data powers their online features tracking money in politics — counting cash to make change."

According to OpenSecrets.org, the higher education industry ranked number 11 in 2012 for lobbying expenditures. The nation's colleges and universities spent $90, 503,733 for lobbying. Education came after hospitals and before real estate. 2012's Top Ten Academic lobbyists are:

  • 1-Association of American Medical Colleges $2,210,000
  • 2- Texas A&M University $1,565,000
  • 3- Warburg Pincus (a for-profit organization) $1,070,000
  • 4- Boston University $1,050,000
  • 5- Corinthian Colleges (for-profit) $ 965,000
  • 6- Assoc. of Private Sector Colleges $ 960,000
  • 7- California State University $ 900,000
  • 8- University of California $ 800,000
  • 9- University of Texas $ 785,000
  • 10- Career Education Corp. (for-profit) $ 750,000

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Ironically, despite all the criticism leveled at for-profit colleges, only three are in this Top Ten lobbying list. Moreover, as recently as 2009, there was not one for-profit university listed in the Top Ten. The ten biggest university lobbyists for 2009 were: State University of New York, California State University, University of Texas, Johns Hopkins University, University of Colorado, Boston University, University of Southern California, Texas A&M, University of California and University of Washington. These ten institutions spent more than $10 million to lobby the government on their behalf.