Public Investment in Private Higher Education

Estimating the Value of Nonprofit College and University Tax Exemptions

Joshua Humphreys, Ann Solomon

September 2012

Starting with the concept of a “social contract” between colleges and the public, this paper provides a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of the taxpayer support that private, nonprofit higher-education institutions receive in exchange for providing a public good for the benefit of society as a whole. To do this, the authors have developed a new methodology for estimating the value of federal, state and local tax exemptions received by these institutions, using Northeastern University as a case study.

“[One] of the most trenchant, clear reports on the foibles of higher education finance since The Jungle muckracker Upton Sinclair self-published The Goose-Step: A Study of American Higher Education in 1922.”

–Wick Sloane in Inside Higher Ed

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