As we break into the Fall semester and the beginning of our new school year, we are continuing on our long-term investments in our education, careers and futures.
Although a student’s time and effort is his or her most valuable contribution to a university, financial obligations are quite significant as well — as those who pay bills undoubtedly know.
What is lost on, or more accurately, hidden from many, is that the financial contributions made to an institution with the size and complexity of our University stretch beyond the services and facilities provided by the organization; students invest in an ever-evolving financial institution.
The University has centralized wealth and resources, and has the power to use these resources in various ways. Some of this wealth and power is used to support UH’s direct interests, and some of it goes to our community and the rest of the world.
A university’s endowment is a collection of investments owned by a university and managed by an administrative committee. There are some things that really stand out in UH’s endowment.
UH has a major stake in some of the biggest tax evaders of the 2008 recession era, with more than a million dollars invested in Apple, who has paid just $8.2 billion in taxes while profiting $48 billion since December 2009.
UH also has over $14.2 million invested in Altria, Phillip Morris, Boeing, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Newscorp, Oracle, Pfizer and Time Warner. These companies collectively made $96.7 billion in profits last year, but through the use of overseas tax shelters, lobbying for tax breaks, and other tactics these companies paid very little or no taxes in 2010.
The endowment also shows that the University owns $1.5 million in shares in American Electric, Boeing, FedEx, Honeywell and Wells Fargo. These are all profitable companies, but they also all hold negative tax rates and have been getting tax refunds from the federal government since 2008.
UH has almost $1 million invested in GE, who recieved a $3.2 billion dollar tax refund last year after making a profit of $14.2 billion.
And finally, the University has almost $11.4 million invested in 23 of the 26 banks who received federal bailout money in 2008. These are the banks who thought that high risk loan practices that subsequently buried poor and working class people under insurmountable debt was a good idea. These banks helped bring about the current recession that has made it so hard for college graduates to find employment. Many of these banks, like JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley and several others are also tax dodgers.
When our national deficit is spurring austerity measures locally and around the country, it’s time for UH to stop investing in rich corporations who lobby and cheat the government out of billions every year.
While it’s important for UH to be solvent, if the University is making money off of the destruction of lives and communities by investing in companies who profit at the expense of taxpayer and young people trying to find jobs, the University is investing against the interests of its population.
Brendan Laws is a sociology senior and may be reached at [email protected].