Yale on the Beach

Connecticut is looking at instituting a Yale Tax. Specifically, a tax on endowments for universities meeting certain qualifications. Basically, Yale.

Taking a suggestion from Yale alum Walter Olson, Ira Stoll argues that the university should consider relocating to Boston. Boston? Meh. That might help with the tax situation, and he makes some other arguments, but on the whole seems penny-wise and pound-foolish and ignores other Yale issues.

Florida Governor Rick Scott has extended an invitation:

Florida Governor Rick Scott on Tuesday called on Yale University to consider a move south if Connecticut legislators follow through on a proposal to tax the net investment profits of the university’s $25.6 billion endowment. {…}

“With news that the Connecticut Legislature wants to unfairly tax one of the nation’s most renowned universities to deal with the state’s budget shortfall, it is clear that all businesses in Connecticut, including Yale, should look to move to Florida,’’ Scott said. {…}

“If Connecticut lawmakers are seriously considering another tax on Yale, businesses and families should be concerned about the other tax increases their Legislature will consider. We would welcome a world-renowned university like Yale to our state and I can commit that we will not raise taxes on their endowment. This would add yet another great university to our state.”

Image by amelungc

Image by amelungc

General Electric may have moved out of the state, but of all of the institutions to leave a state for tax reasons, universities would be among the most difficult. And sure enough, the university has expressed disinterest in the prospect.

That’s a shame. (Sort of.)

I have long been of the belief that it’s been to the detriment of this country that as our population has grown considerably, our premier institutions of higher learning have not. I’ve long said “We should have a Harvard West! Harvard Texas!” But hey, Yale Florida would work.

The typical argument against my proposal is that you just can’t have more than one Harvard and have it hold the same prestige. This is both true and false. It is true that the prestige of Harvard and Yale revolve around their exclusivity, but it’s not as though we have fewer premier academics per-capita than we did fifty years ago. It’s not as though we have fewer stellar students per capita that we did fifty years ago. The universities themselves talk about how nearly impossible it is to choose among such an amazing crop of students. There are probably enough students that could have gotten into Harvard fifty years to fill a dozen schools. It’s just that now they go to Rice, Duke, and other universities. But no matter how good those schools get, even if their median student is better than that of Harvard of yesteryear, almost none of them will completely get their due.

For the most part, it’s not in the interest of the universities to be anything but as selective as they can be. If only being able to accept 1 out of 50 of the equally indistinguishably greatest students in the country is good, then accepting only one out of 250 is even better! Or something like that.

Yale, though, could be an exception. Not just because of the tax thing, but also because being where it is it lives so much in shadow of Harvard. I mention above that the students accepting the Harvard students (and Harvard professors) of yesteryear aren’t getting their due, but there is one major exception: Stanford. There’s the Ivy League, and there’s Stanford. Arguably, these days, there’s Harvard and there’s Stanford. Stanford has a benefit that separates itself from every other Not Harvard, which is that it is far away from Harvard’s shadow. Yale, in contrast, seems to exist almost entirely in Harvard’s shadow.

Florida would fix that!

Now, Rick Scott wants them to move their entire university. That really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But if Yale set up a school in Florida, that could be a different story. Why would anyone go to Yale if they can go to Harvard? Most of the time, I’m not sure. Stanford, sure! Silicon Valley and California weather. Florida has no Silicon Valley, and the weather is different, but it has a great winter climate and beautiful beaches. There are students and faculty who would likely be interested in going there for all sorts of lifestyle reasons that Connecticut just can’t provide. They can move the endowment there and along with student tuitions the thing could pay for itself.

While Harvard Texas would run a risk of being a notably inferior institution, Yale Florida would have a lot more potential to possibly even exceed Yale Connecticut or at least challenge it like Stanford challenges Harvard. The biggest problem with my preference for expanded Ivy League schools is real estate, and regional campuses can be a tough sell. Yale Florida satisfies both concerns.

Also, tax breaks.

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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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35 thoughts on “Yale on the Beach

  1. Wait, Yale does have a branch in Singapore, as does Duke’s medical school. Both are operated in conjunction with the National University of Singapore (Yale-NUS and Duke-NUS Medical School respectively). So, if they can branch off to the other side of the world (and send some of their academics over), I’m pretty sure they can do something about just a few states away. Not to mention, univesities do set up satellite campuses and overseas campuses. Monash has a branch in Malaysia.

    And quite a few British universities have campuses in Singapore



    • Temple University has branch campuses around the world for Americans whose families are abroad, study abroad students, and non-Americans interested in an American degree but not studying in the United States. When I did study abroad in Japan, I studied at TUJ’s Tokyo campus, really just one building in Azabu-Juban. NYU has a branch in Dubai but this has drawn considerable controversy.

      Having branch campuses in the United States might be different than branch campuses in other countries when it comes to preserving prestige. Like Will, I’ve long advocated for increasing the number of slots at elite universities. I see it more in the form of increasing capacity at the main campus rather than establishing branch campuses though. Elite universities are just elite because they are difficult to get into or have stellar teaching and research done. They are selling an entire experience of the Ivy League or at least elite university status and have a mythology tied to their particular home locations. Foreign branches can remain obscure or even be used to boast elite status. Something like we are so good that we were invited to set up a college in another country. When you have Harvard Oregon or Yale Florida than it comes across more as a franchise than anything else. That will lower elite status.


  2. IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) has opened a whole slew of campuses, in some cases just swallowing up what were formerly non-IIT schools. I’ve wondered whether it would hurt their reputation. It hasn’t as far as I’ve heard, not that I keep up with such things.

    It’s worth noting that I think the number of Harvard-affiliated people has probably skyrocketed even as the undergraduate program doesn’t expand. Graduate programs have blossomed, and executive education even more.


    • A few of my friends did graduate programs at the Harvard Extension school. IIRC Harvard goes to lengths to make sure those people know they went to psuedo-Harvard. They don’t get to use Harvard’s benefits for regular alumni.


  3. I see Rick Scott’s ploy as being more about a troll than anything else. It seems like a variant of Texas v. California. California’s economy does extremely well despite or because of high wages and taxation.

    Red Staters seem bewildered about why the Bay Area or LA is more attractive to many people than Plano, Texas.

    Anyway, there are a lot of elite educational institutions besides the Ivies and Stanford. You have MIT, Cal Tech, Chicago, Northwestern, Emory, Vassar, Oberlin, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Wesleyan, Kenyon, Reed, Smith, Mount Hokyoke, Brandeis, USC, occidental, the Claremont Colleges, Cal, Michigan, Swathmore, Haverford, Amherst, Bryn Mawr, Washington, Sarah Lawrence, Bates, Colby, Bowdoin, Julliard, RISD, Colorsdo College, Connecticut College, Rochester, Duke, Rice, Baylor, Colgate, and more.

    All these universities and collrges admit less than half their applicants. Usually much less. Though I admit that many of them are clustered in the Northeast and Mudwest with some in California.

    The pressure to go to an elite private university is also much more of a thing on the East Coast and even then only in certain circles. When I moved to CA, the experience here seems to be that you would attend a UC or CSU for the most part. This includes people who went to private school from K-12. A law school classmate was admitted into Cal and Brown. Her mom pressured her to take Brown over Cal.

    Also does Yale really feel like they are in Harvard’s shadow?


    • Also does Yale really feel like they are in Harvard’s shadow?

      If they don’t, they should. I think the future looks a lot brighter for Stanford and Columbia than it does for Yale.

      Anyway, there are a lot of elite educational institutions besides the Ivies and Stanford.

      MIT and Caltech, for that niche, absolutely. Beyond that… some of them are elite, but nowhere close to the same level and the gap seems to me to be growing rather than shrinking. (Which, of course, is the incentive for the highest echelon to maintain insane exclusivity.


      • Yeah, I’d characterize most of the schools that Saul listed as elite as being difficult to get into and offering excellent instruction. They aren’t elite in terms of status as much as they were in the past.


        • Right. As the biggest of the big get harder to get into, the next tier get better and better students and professors. But not the boost in status. It creates an odd situation where the gap in actual quality of education and experience between Harvard and Weslayan has never been smaller, the status differential has never been greater.


          • If anything some of the big name state universities like University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus, Penn State, or University of California Berkeley campus might offer more elite status these days than the schools Saul listed.


            • Where I’ve lived, the state public flagship has tended to be seen as the elite; this was less true in Colorado, but Madison was the top choice for most people when I was growing up, with only a few oddballs like me aiming to leave the state. Cal and UCLA are kind of interesting in that they are very prestigious regionally and globally but seem to get less recognition at the national level. Michigan is like this as well.

              I pretty strongly disagree about Penn State, but this might be a regional thing; just among Big Ten members, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and Northwestern are all on a completely different level to me, while several other members of the conference have strong arguments to be placed ahead of PSU. But then my frame of reference is Midwestern, while PSU is more oriented towards the Northeast, I think.


          • How do you think the status differential is greater? I think that schools like Wesleyan and Vassar probably attract somewhat more unconventional students who are not always interested in the brass ring jobs at Goldman. Yet I got to say that for the most part, my cohort from Vassar is doing fine to very well. There are some dashed dreams and precariousness but no one is drowning in despair except maybe me but that is more for my law school timing than anything else. Not because of Vassar.

            Most people seem to know Vassar and are impressed by it. Parents are anxious though from what I hear.

            You might appreciate this:



      • Brown was a generation ago a pioneer in PC silliness, in part courtesy its president, Howard Swearer. One of the more amusing escapades was a student referendum ca. 1983 petitioning the administration to stock up on suicide pill-kits in the event of a nuclear war. A school down in Texas (Texas A & M, IIRC) responded with a student referendum petitioning the administration to stock up on guns in the event of a Soviet invasion. I think Jerelyn Luther may persuade people that Brown has ceded the crown to Yale.


      • Apples to pears. Cornell has twice the census of Yale and, while academic research is conducted there, puts much more of its assets on the vocational side of the wall. Ithaca’s a nice town. No place like it, really.


    • William and Mary is a quondam public honors college which is now classified as a research university. As public research universities go, you’d be hard put to find one with a smaller census. Yale is a private institution, has a larger census, and has the means for a high faculty/student ratio that public institutions generally lack. So, no, it would not make it William and Mary (which has an antique campus as well). Private research universities in this country have a considerable history and are as often as not in New England, the New York – Washington corridor, or the easternmost parts of the Rustbelt. I do not think there are any founded more recently than Rice, and Rice has been around for a century. Yale transplanted to Florida would be something entirely novel. Florida is nothing if not tacky, so I cannot figure why anyone operating a place with a certain amount of history would do it I suspect there are things that Gov. Scott just doesn’t get.


    • W&M also has the distinct advantage, or disadvantage of being mentioned in a Steely Dan song. Having said that, one of my goals as an undergrad there was to get them to change the name of the school to The College of Jack and Diane.


  4. There’s no need for a ‘Harvard West’. State systems which maintain a stratum of selectivity among their campuses will be adequate, to the extent that there’s any value added in prestige. If the enrollments of private universities with high levels of cachet are fixed, the overflow will move to other universities (public and private) and improve their standing over time. This is really a non-problem.

    Three things to note: the potential clientele in most states is too small to maintain a prestige institution larger than an honors college, so your public research universities with cachet will have to be in the most populous states. Another is that the people who run higher education, the judiciary, and (to a lesser degree) elected officials are easy meat for race hustlers, if they need hustling at all. An honest stratification requires firing the diversicrats and admitting people according to a vector equation which combines high school GPA and board scores, or, alternatively, having a statewide baccalaureate examination. Another is that regularized nomenclature should be the order of the day, instituted by federal consumer protection law if possible. You have only about 260-odd institutions in the country which should have a franchise to call themselves ‘universities’. The remainder should be compelled to revert to ‘college’ or some generic alternative like ‘school’ or ‘institution’.


    • If the enrollments of private universities with high levels of cachet are fixed, the overflow will move to other universities (public and private) and improve their standing over time.

      I don’t know that this is really true. Especially for private schools. As I say above to Lee (I think), the quality of the student body and faculty between Harvard and Weslayan has probably never been lower… and the prestige gap never wider. (I’m not sure what to make of the fact that the exceptions, to the extent that they exist, seem to be schools with strong athletics programs. Hmmm.)

      On the other hand, the folks here have pointed out that I may be looking in the wrong place. There is a good argument that the overflow has resulted in a number of state universities achieving a much higher degree of elite status than they had. So instead of the runoff from #1-3 going to schools #4-6, they are being dispersed more widely to the top 100 and mostly to the (larger) public schools.

      Which is a delightfully egalitarian result. Would be moreso if we managed to collectively say F*** Harvard, but alas we seem to be moving in the other direction.


      • the quality of the student body and faculty between Harvard and Weslayan has probably never been lower… a

        How did you get that idea? The racial preference schemes will damage a university, but that applies to a single-digit share of the student body. If someone defines ‘quality’ as mastery of classical literature, I suppose so. That horse left the barn a while ago. The Greek entrance exam at Harvard was eliminated in 1897 and the Latin exam in 1916. When my father was contemplating colleges 70 years ago, admissions to prestige universities were heavily biased toward people who’d had a particular preparatory program (who had a wider band of general intelligence than the class of 1965 at these loci, something about which Charles Murray has written). For reasons I won’t go into, I had exposure to cohorts of students who were about 15 years apart in age. I did not notice any general deterioration, just a redistribution of developed competencies. What declined was the capacity to put a grammatically proper sentence together, with regard to which my contemporaries also fared notably worse than my parents’ contemporaries.


  5. I don’t have much to offer on the Yale thing, other than to say that I saw firsthand the problems caused by CT’s laws last year. We have a major client that moved a substantial portion of their operation to New Hampshire, both for the tax breaks and also to reduce their dealings with the unions. I also heard a lot of grumblings from their employees about how taxes affect their wages and also how much they hated their gun laws (a lot of these guys are blue collar and ex-military and they hate the stuff put in place after Newtown). When our facility opened in NH, we then got a lot of employees from Massachusetts for some of the same reasons.

    Interesting inter-state dynamics in the Northeast…


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