Opinion: It’s Time to Pay It Forward


Photo: amherst.edu

Amherst College Students Write in Support of The Endowment Tax Act

The following article appeared originally in The Amherst Student on November 1, 2023. It is posted here with permission. Amherst Student Assistant Opinion Editor Willow Delp ’26 and the undersigned students call for the college to support the Massachusetts Endowment Tax Act as evidence of its commitment to equity.

If there’s one thing that most Amherst College students know about — regardless of the classes they’ve taken, or their chosen major(s) — it’s the endowment.

The pride of the college, the number “four billion dollars” (give or take a few) is deeply familiar to the vast majority of Amherst students. Even if they don’t know what exactly an endowment is, ask an Amherst student and they’ll most likely be able to recite the number back to you. In a conversation about the endowment, Isabelle Anderson ’25 noted that, “The fact that students know how much it is off the top of their head proves how much it matters to Amherst’s image.”

The often-unasked question is: Does Amherst College need (or deserve) all this money? Our college sits on a vast, relatively untapped pool of wealth. Only 3.5-5 percent of the endowment is spent each year. The endowment has grown $1 billion since 2019. As tuition prices rise, the endowment is intended to last “in[to] perpetuity,” and therefore a significant portion remains untapped in the present day. The value of funding professorships, student life, and financial aid is incalculable, and we don’t mean to suggest otherwise — but the tremendous scale of the Amherst endowment allows it to fund these invaluable parts of the college with plenty of money to spare.

As this massive pool of wealth continues to aggregate thanks to investments in numerous companies, problems outside the realm of Amherst College persist. Students of public universities continue to graduate with mounting fees in student loan debt, despite the supposed ‘accessibility’ of a non-private education. As the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM) aptly notes, “It’s clear: student debt is a crisis that can no longer be ignored or pushed aside.”

An endowment tax is a way for Amherst to give back on its questionably-gotten gains. The Endowment Tax Act (sponsored by Sen. Jamie Eldridge and Rep. Natalie Higgins) would finance public education for Massachusetts residents. In conjunction with the Debt Free Future Act, the Endowment Tax Act would provide the funding to ensure that all eligible Massachusetts students can graduate from public institutions of higher education without debt. The Endowment Tax Act would place a 2.5 percent excise tax on the Massachusetts colleges and universities that possess an endowment of over $1 billion — and that includes Amherst.

Amherst College’s support of an endowment tax would prove their support for equity. It is easy to make shallow statements claiming that Amherst believes in diversity; it is much more difficult (and profoundly more meaningful) to sacrifice even a small part of Amherst’s wealth in order to support the community beyond the narrow purview of its campus. As Anderson noted, “This tax is a way to directly contribute to the public good.” As the wealthiest school in Western Massachusetts, Amherst owes it not only to the students of University of Massachusetts-Amherst, but to the numerous public school students within the state to pay its fair share.

Willow Delp ’26, William Prince ’25, Dylan Schor ’25, and Isabelle Anderson ’25 are students at Amherst College.

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