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Harvard spent $610,000 on lobbying Congress in 2017, a figure $60,000 higher than the amount the University spent in 2016.
The uptick in lobbying fees came during a year in which Harvard—and higher education more broadly—faced a number of legislative challenges. Despite the University’s efforts to convince lawmakers to preserve its tax-exempt status, Congress passed a 1.4 percent excise tax last December on university endowments worth more than $500,000 per student—a category that includes Harvard.
Apart from the endowment tax, the University lobbied lawmakers in 2017 on issues including federal research funding, student aid, and immigration reform, according to lobbying disclosure records.
“Harvard’s advocacy efforts have been primarily focused on advancing our position within Congress on issues of federal research funding, student aid and higher education policies such as the PROSPER Act, immigration policies, and the impact of the tax on university endowments and other investment income on philanthropy and higher education,” University spokesperson Melodie L. Jackson wrote in a statement.
Harvard maintains a federal relations office in Washington, D.C. less than a mile from the Capitol. The office employs four staff members, and reported lobbying expenditures include salaries and expenses of these employees as well as membership fees for higher education associations, according to Jackson.
The 2017 figure exceeds the $550,000 Harvard spent in 2016 on its lobbying efforts. The University also spent $160,000 in the first three months of 2018—a number consistent with money spent during the same period of time in 2017. The office hired a new legislative research assistant over the summer, which could explain the uptick in lobbying expenditures.
University President Drew G. Faust has also continued her own advocacy efforts, which she “ramped up” after the 2016 election. In March, Faust traveled to Washington to meet with lawmakers to express “deep concerns” about a proposed overhaul of the Higher Education Act, which structures loan repayment plans for students and funds programs such as Pell Grants.
The legislation in question—dubbed the PROSPER Act—would eliminate the Federal Work-Study Program and public service loan forgiveness for graduate and professional students.
According to public record filings, the University’s lobbying efforts included immigration reform issues on a number of bills, including the Dream Act of 2017 which would bring paths to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. In March, Faust met with lawmakers to discuss providing protections for undocumented immigrant youths.
Earlier this month, Faust met with two members of Congress to push for a bipartisan proposal to repeal the endowment tax. If the tax had been in effect in 2017, it is estimated it would have cost the University $43 million.
—Staff writer William L. Wang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @wlwang20.
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