Give to the rich and take from the poor a tradition of entitlement
Tulane University is successful in obtaining millions of dollars of public funds from the state of Louisiana. This support to a private institution that primarily services out-of-statestudents violates the State Attorney General's opinion about using public funds for private purposes, and rewards an academic institution that engages in tax-sheltered business activities in violation of its founding charter. Tulane's receipt of state funds represents an extraordinary return on its lobbying investment and occurs at the expense of cash-strapped public institutions that are struggling to provide educational and other vital services to Louisiana residents. The example below is taken from 2003-4data.
Comparison of Louisiana State Grants to Two Area Schools University Undergraduate Student Enrollment, 2003 [A] Percentage Who Are Louisiana Residents [B] LA State Grants for Professorships, 2004 [C, D] LA State Grants for Professorships, 2008 [D, E] UNO
13, 338 93.2% $100,000
7,701 14% $4.3 million
3 endowed chairs
4 endowed chairsSources and Notes:
- UNO data from: "University of New Orleans, Fall Enrollment Trends, 1959-2003," http://www.uno.edu/~inre/enrolltrend.pdf, accessed Aug. 16, 2004. Tulane data from: The Princeton Review, "Tulane University," http://www.princetonreview.com/college/research/profiles/..., accessed Aug. 19, 2003.
- UNO data from: Office of Data Management, Analysis and Reporting, "Enrollment Summaries," http://www.uno.edu/~inre/enroll.htm, accessed Aug. 17, 2004. Tulane data from: Margo Adler, "Biggest and brightest," Tulane Hullabaloo, Vol. 94, No. 1, August, 22, 2003 (quoting Dean of Admissions Richard Whiteside for entering freshmen).
- See: "La. colleges get money for chairs, professorships; Public and private campuses benefit," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, August 12, 2004,
p. B-8. Note: The Louisiana Board of Regents program furnishes a 40% match; a 60% share of the funds must come from private sources.
- The statute that created the Endowment Trust Fund for Eminent Scholars was originally intended to only benefit state colleges and universities in Louisiana. In 1984, State Attorney General Opinion 84-284 concluded: "The Eminent Scholars Trust Fund created by Act 668 of 1983 does not apply to independent (i.e.,
non-public) colleges and universities."
That opinion set into motion a vigorous lobbying campaign to reinterpret the law to benefit Tulane, as reflected in Attorney General Opinion 91-99, which incorporated in its rationale some of the exchanges from a 1985 Senate Education Committee meeting about the state's Scholars Trust Fund monies. There, a concerned Sen. Armand J. Brinkhous, D-Vermillion Parish, remarked: "They could send it to Tulane." Ed Steimel, who represented the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), commented:
"...Nobodyis going to throw all this money at Tulane, or at Loyola, or at Xavier, or any of the other private colleges..."
In the end, Sen. Brinkhous was closer to the mark. Tulane's ability to provide 60% shares of private money for professorships has forced the state to allocate the bulk of its 40% shares of matching funds accordingly.
In 2006, Louisiana's Board of Regents gave
$3.2 millionto Tulane to endow chairs and professorships. See: Madeline Vann, "Board of Regents Funds Chairs, Professorships at Tulane," Tulane University Magazine - News, September, 2006, http://www2.tulane.edu/article_news_details.cfm?ArticleID=6822, accessed 09/27/06; and Ibid., October 2, 2006, http://www2.tulane.edu/article_news_details.cfm?ArticleID=6830, accessed 10/02/06.
In 2007, Louisiana's Board of Regents allocated federal research grants to six institutions impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Nearly 57%
($15.6 million)of the total $27.6 millionwent to Tulane. See: "Louisiana colleges could get 27.6M for research,"New Orleans CityBusiness, June 28, 2007. The Board of Regents also gave $1.6 millionto Tulane to endow chairs and professorships. See: Arthur Need, "Louisiana Board of Regents Funds Chairs, Professorships at Tulane University," [Press Release] September 5, 2007, http://tulane.edu/news/releases/090507_2.cfm, accessed 09/05/07. See also: Arthur Need, "Regents' Funding Boosts Tulane Faculty," Tulane University Magazine - News, September, 7, 2007, http://www2.tulane.edu/article_news_details.cfm?ArticleID=7559, accessed 09/07/07.
- See: John Pope, "Schools get state funds for endowed positions; They will establish chairs, professorships," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, August 13, 2008,
Metro, p. 4. Note: The Louisiana Board of Regents program furnishes a 40% match; a 60% share of the funds must come from private sources.
Despite generous financing from the state, Tulane's tuition ($38,664 for
2008-2009) remains among the highest in the nation. See: Best Colleges 2009, U.S. News & World Report, August 21, 2008, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/college/national-search, accessed 08/22/08.
Property Taxes in Orleans Parish
In 1996, the Orleans Parish School Board received 28% of collected property taxes, the Sewerage & Water Board 14%, the Levee Board 7.4%, the City 28.5%, the Audubon Institute 2.8%, and the remainder was used to help pay off the city's bonded indebtedness . Clearly, property taxes provide major support to critical city services that benefit all citizens, such as the public school system, the city's infrastructure, and the social services on which we all depend. Tulane University pays no property taxes, even on commercial holdings not used for educational purposes. In 1996, Tulane University owned or controlled 4.5% of the city's property tax base, and subsequent acquistions have only increased its share. Discounting property that is exempted through the homestead exemption, Tulane's portion of the remaining tax-exempt property in New Orleans amounted to 22.8% in 1996, as illustrated below . The value of privately-owned real estate exempted from taxes in 1996 was over $501 million, of which Tulane's share was about $115 million. Because of these exemptions, the revenue lost to local government was $67.4 million, of which about $15.4 million was attributed to Tulane's exemptions . Tulane receives the services of the city's police and fire departments and has its streets, sewerage and water lines maintained all at the expense of other taxpaying owners of private property. Unfortunately, the public schools are gravely impacted by the revenue lost to the parish. In the chart above, "All Other" includes (in descending order of percentage): tax abatement for restorations; other private schools; social services; trade, travel and commerce; fraternal organizations; housing development corporations; cemeteries; manufacturing; labor unions; foundations; and miscellaneous others . The Contest to Collect the Tax In 1996, 5th Municipal District Assessor Thomas L. Arnold billed Tulane for taxes on undeveloped land valued at $8.1 million near English Turn on the West Bank, arguing that Tulane was holding the property as a commercial investment taxable under state law. Arnold pointed out that non-profits increasingly were investing in commercial properties and freeing them from taxation . They would then lease the property back to the original owners for less than the owners were paying in taxes and use the rental income for their own purposes. It is a scheme that deprived the city of needed tax revenue. "This is a cancer that's growing, and if we don't do something about it, we all lose," Arnold remarked.  Tulane responded by suing the Tax Commission in state court which returned the favorable ruling that, because there was no constitutional provision requiring the taxation of property held for commercial purposes by nonprofit educational associations, Tulane remained exempt . Extrapolating from that extraordinary bent of judgment, one can argue that the absence of a constitutional provision requiring a penalty for a specific type of activity gives one license to freely engage in that activity, even if there is legislation that penalizes it. What Arnold may not have realized at the time was the degree to which the courts were biased in favor of Tulane. Thus, the civil district court judge who issued the favorable ruling, Judge Robin Giarrusso, was a Tulane undergraduate who also received her law degree from Tulane Law School and served as a frequent lecturer . More importantly, when Arnold appealed the judgment to Louisiana's 4th Circuit Court of Appeal, the three judges assigned to the case Judges Patricia R. Murray, Joan Armstrong, and Moon Landrieu  all had substantial conflicts of interest because of direct or family ties to Tulane. Coincidentally, these were the same appellate judges that had been assigned to review the lawsuit that Dr. Stephen Schwarz had brought against Tulane. Appellate Judge Patricia R. Murray received both her BA and JD degrees from Tulane and from 1994 onward held an adjunct appointment at Tulane Law School as an associate professor, teaching in the course Trial Advocacy . Moreover, as a student in the early 1980's, Murray was the recipient of a number of Tulane scholarships. As reported in the Oct. 15, 1995 issue of The Times-Picayune, she received three years of scholarships via Henry Braden  and another year of scholarship via Michael O'Keefe . At today's tuition rates, those would be valued at more than $130,000, an indebtedness that would appear to make her recusal mandatory . The other judges involved in Arnold's appeal against Tulane were Judges Joan Armstrong and Moon Landrieu, whose families also benefited from Tulane scholarships. According to The Times-Picayune, Anna Armstrong, a daughter of Judge Armstrong, received a Tulane scholarship for the 1992-93 academic year , Gary Landrieu, a nephew of Judge Landrieu, received Tulane scholarships from 1976 to 1981 , and Sherri Dazet Landrieu, a daughter-in-law, received Tulane scholarships from 1983 to 1985 and the 1986-87 academic year . It is a matter of conjecture whether Arnold was even aware of the judicial conflicts of interest that permeated the appellate process in his attempt to tax Tulane for its commercial property interest. Perhaps that knowledge would have influenced his strategy in pursuing a matter that is vital to the welfare of citizens whose futures are tied to the quality of public education and other important services provided by parish government. In 2004, the financial crisis at the University of New Orleans was serious enough to force the closing of the student newspaper, Driftwood . In 2004, Tulane listed the value of its investments in partnerships, mortgages, real estate and royalty interests at $77 million. In 2005, Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-Algiers (Thomas L. Arnold's son), and Sen. Ann Duplessis, D-New Orleans, introduced legislation that would end the taxation of motor vehicles and impose taxes on property owned by non-profit organizations that currently do not pay property taxes. In response, Tulane assigned an administrator, Flozell Daniels Jr., to help control the outcome of Duplessis' bill . Under pressure, Duplessis amended her bill to require nonprofits merely to report which of their commercial holdings are not used to support their tax-exempt mission . Tulane has historically maintained that income from its commercial holdings is used for educational purposes. The Seesaw Over Sales Tax In 1982, state Rep. John J. Hainkel, Jr., D-New Orleans, requested the attorney general's opinion on whether the state and the City of New Orleans could impose sales and use taxes on purchases made by Tulane University. In Opinion Number 82-1039, issued November 12, 1982, Attorney General William J. Guste, Jr., stated that, "...the exemption granted in Act 43 of 1884 does not exempt Tulane University from the payment of sales and use taxes, but applies only to ad valorem taxes levied against the property of Tulane." The following year, Judge Edmund M. Reggie, newly appointed to Tulane's Board of Administrators, interceded on Tulane's behalf to have the ruling on the sales tax rescinded, and in Opinion Number 84-194, issued February 28, 1984, Attorney General Guste now stated that, "...the exemption granted in Act 43 of 1884 does exempt Tulane University from the payment of sales and use taxes of the State, parochial, and municipal authorities. Opinion Number 82-1039is hereby recalled." Thus, once again, Tulane dodged the tax bullet and demonstrated the supremacy of politics over law. Stealth Tax for Tulane? In 2004, Tulane received a $2.5 million grant from Entergy Corp. and, as part of a $1 million four-year research project, Entergy in 2005 installed a supercomputer in Tulane's School of Engineering, said to be the only one of its kind at an American university and capable of simulating the operation and vulnerability of a multi-state power grid . In 2007, Entergy awarded Tulane $25,000 in grants and in 2008 gave another $100,000 . Entergy's rate payers may feel they are unsuspectingly being taxed to help support the private university. Roderick "Rod" K. West, former Director of Regulatory Affairs of Entergy New Orleans and now its President and CEO, received his JD and MBA degrees from Tulane and was an adjunct professor at Tulane University School of Law from 1993 to 2001 . West is also cofounder, with Tulane University President Scott Cowen and others, of the Fleur-De-Lis Ambassadors Program  and is a board member of the Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) . The LRA allocated $200 millionto Entergy New Orleans from the Community Development Block Grants program (CDBG) funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) . Another $16 millionof CDBG money was allocated to Tulane under a program designed to commercialize medical research . Tulane's Entergy-Tulane Energy Institute is a formal recognition of Tulane's partnership with Entergy . The cozy relationship of the two institutions was evident when Entergy's former president, Dan Packer, and Tulane's President Scott Cowen were named to co-chair the state's Public Education Progress Committee in 2008 to lobby the public for renewal of the tax millage to support public schools, whether charter or not . Between 2002 and 2009, Entergy gave $1.3 million to the Teach for America program, whose effect has been to replace unionized, veteran teachers with young, inexperienced recruits . The rates that Entergy charges its customers are regulated by Louisiana's Public Service Commission. In an unrelated case, the Alliance for Affordable Energy, a New Orleans watchdog group, sued the five-member commission for its failure to give proper public notice of a rate-setting process involving Entergy . Perhaps the Alliance can help uncover the methods that Entergy uses to avoid full disclosure of the factors that contribute to its rates. The State's Finances In January, 2005 Governor Kathleen Blanco called on all state agencies to cut their budgets by 1.75% for fiscal 2004 (which ended June 30, 2005) and brace themselves for a shortfall of $300 million to $400 million in fiscal 2005. The immediate effect was a loss of about $18 million to the state's colleges and universities and a loss of more than $16.8 million to the Department of Health and Hospitals . For fiscal 2005, budget cuts to the state's colleges and universities were estimated as $35 million . On May 23, 2007 at the eighth annual Tulane Day at the Legislature "celebration" and exhibition in Baton Rouge, Tulane officials lobbied Governor Blanco and key members of the state legislature for an additional $10 millionto supplement a $40 milliongrant from the federal government for the construction of new buildings for medical research at Tulane's Primate Research Center in Covington, Louisiana . One month later, the Board of Regents allocated federal research grants to six institutions impacted by Hurricane Katrina, and nearly 57% ($15.6 million)of the total $27.6 millionwent to Tulane . In contrast, two years post-Katrina, state-supportedSouthern University at New Orleans (SUNO) was still operating in 45 modular trailers and was without a definitive timetable for rebuilding and returning to its original campus . Other area colleges were equally desperate for state funds , and four years post-Katrina, many buildings at the UNO campus had not been repaired, including its student center, library, and married-studenthousing complex . The four historically black colleges affected by Hurricane Katrina eventually opted for government loans to aid in their reconstruction, thus mortgaging their futures to the federal government for the next 30 years . SUNO is planning to construct three new buildings including a dormitory on its temporary campus, to be ready in the fall of 2009 . Two years post-Katrina, Tulane received a blank check from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for 100% of any renovations to its existing buildings it deems "could mitigate future storm damage," including the replacement of existing air-conditioningsystems and the upgrading of major facilities in current use . Tulane's extensive lobbying efforts may have contributed to this windfall. While the black colleges struggle to hold on, Tulane seems headed for yet another bonanza from the federal government. Even though its endowment in 2008 exceeded $1 billion , Tulane and two other schools successfully lobbied the House of Representatives and the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to change the eligibility requirements of the rebuilding loan program that Congress had made available for historically black colleges, with interest rates as low as 1% . The new provisions that make Tulane eligible for similar low interest loans were incorporated into the Higher Education Opportunity Act that President Bush signed on August 14, 2008 . Tulane's financial success as a "nonprofit" institution prompted the relocation of its investment office to New York City's financial center . In 2009, Tulane shifted top administrators into high gear to chase after another $1 billion.References
- Mark Schleifstein, "Schools, city lose out on millions; 65% of property in N.O. exempt from taxation," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, October 14, 1996,
- Property Taxes In New Orleans: Who Pays? Who Doesn't? And Why? Bureau of Governmental Research, New Orleans, October, 1996.
- Mark Schleifstein, "Tulane Tax Exemption to be Challenged," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, February 27, 1997,
- Mark Schleifstein, "Vacant land remains tax-free; Tulane beats assessor in court," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, March 25, 1998,
- "New Orleans jurist to help rein in judge misconduct; She's named to seat on 9-member panel," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, April 28, 2001,
- Board of Administrators of the Tulane Education Fund v. Louisiana Tax Commission, Case No. 97-0663, La.App. 4 Cir. 10/1/97;
- Tulane Law School Catalog 1994-95, 1995-96, 1996-97, 1997-98.
- Tyler Bridges, "The Tulane Scholarship Scandal, Part II; Records reveal more perks to the powerful," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, October 15, 1995,
- Acording to the 2003 edition of The Princeton Review, annual expenses reported for Tulane University were $33,492 (comprehensive fee) and $2,210 (required fees) http://www.princetonreview.com/college/research/profiles/..., accessed Aug. 19, 2003.
- Tyler Bridges, "The Tulane Scholarship Scandal, Part II; Records reveal more perks to the powerful," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, October 15, 1995,
- Tyler Bridges, "Treen's son, Landrieu aide got waivers to Tulane," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, July 25, 1995,
- Coleman Warner, "UNO shuts student newspaper; Officials: Driftwood sank in sea of debt," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, December 8, 2004,
- Tulane University, Financial Statements, 2003-2004,
p. 12, http://tulane.edu/administration/.../financialstatement2004.pdf, accessed 04/13/08.
- Robert Travis Scott, "Support grows for eliminating N.O. vehicle tax; Nagin wants money to make up the difference," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, May 19, 2005,
- Robert Travis Scott, "Proposal tracks exempt nonprofit property; Aim is to discover commercial uses," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, June 3, 2005,
- "Supercomputers Will Help Solve U.S. Energy Blackout Equation," [Press Release, May 23, 2005], Mechanical Web Directory, http://www.mechdir.com/press/catalog/70/, accessed 6/6/05. See also: Coleman Warner, "UNO poised to be costal restoration mecca; Bill would bring flood of economic activity," ... "Supercomputer at Tulane," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, March 26, 2005,
- Pam Radtke Russell, "Entergy awards $737,457 in grants," The Times-Picayune [Blog], New Orleans, May 21, 2007, http://blog.nola.com/tpmoney/2007/05/entergy_awards_737457_in_grant.html, accessed May 23, 2007. See also: Keith Brannon, "Entergy Suppports Tulane Energy Institute With $100,000 Grant," [Press Release], Tulane University, November 14, 2008, http://tulane.edu/news/releases/pr_11142008.cfm, accessed 11/14/08.
- Entergy New Orleans, "Rod West, President & CEO, Entergy New Orleans," http://www.entergy-neworleans.com/about_entergy/CEO.aspx, accessed June 5, 2007. See also: Bill Barrow, "Local governments' money for rebuilding safe for now;
$317 millionwas promised to Orleans," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, June 5, 2007 [National, p. 3].
- Bruce Eggler, "Local leaders tout N.O. nationwide; They aim to counter negative perceptions," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, March 24, 2007,
p. A-1. See also: The NewWave Staff, "Waving the Fleur-De-Lis Flag," Tulane University Magazine - News, March 28, 2007, http://www2.tulane.edu/article_news_details.cfm?ArticleID=7225, accessed 03/28/07. See also: Bruce Eggler, "N.O. ambassadors plan trip to Boston; Travels intended to polish city image," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, April 12, 2007, p. B-1. See also: The NewWave Staff, "Fleur-De-Lis Ambassadors Debut," Tulane University Magazine - News, April 17, 2007, http://www2.tulane.edu/article_news_details.cfm?ArticleID=7292, accessed 04/17/07.
- Bill Barrow, "Local governments' money for rebuilding safe for now;
$317 millionwas promised to Orleans," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, June 5, 2007 [National, p. 3].
- Kathryn Hobgood, "Regents Boost Tulane Research," Tulane University Magazine - News, June 29, 2007, http://www2.tulane.edu/article_news_details.cfm?ArticleID=7437, accessed 06/29/07. See also: BayouBuzz, "Major Louisiana Regents Funding for Education," June 28, 2007, http://www.bayoubuzz.com/News/Louisiana/Government/..., accessed 07/02/07.
- See: Entergy-Tulane Energy Institute, http://www.freeman.tulane.edu/energy/about.htm, accessed 07/24/08.
- Sarah Carr, "Property tax vote affects schools; Officials say improved quality relies on it," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, July 7, 2008
[National, p. 1]. See also: "Education Appointment," Tulane University NewWave, April 8, 2008, http://tulane.edu/news/newwave/newssplash_0408.cfm, accessed 07/10/08. See also: Sarah Carr, "Panel studies school services; N.O. systems may be able to link efforts," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, March 28, 2008 [Metro, p. 1].
- "Teach for America continues mission; Grant includes St. John schools," The Times Picayune, New Orleans, September 27, 2009, River Parishes Picayune,
- Keith Darcé, "PSC sued over rate deal; Watchdog wants Entergy pact tossed," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, June 24, 2005,
- Ed Anderson and Jan Moller, "Cut budgets, Blanco tells agencies; State may be short up to $400 million," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, January 14, 2005
- Melinda Deslatte, "Colleges asked to look at possible budget cuts next year," The Louisiana Weekly, New Orleans, January 24, 2005,
- Carol J. Schlueter, "Tulane Makes Case for Green Support," Tulane University Magazine - News, May 25, 2007, http://www2.tulane.edu/article_news_details.cfm?ArticleID=7380, accessed 05/25/07.
- "Louisiana colleges could get $27.6M for research," New Orleans CityBusiness, June 28, 2007.
- Darran Simon, "Group votes to censure four local universities; Administrators dispute rights-abuse claim," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, June 12, 2007, Metro,
p. 3. See also: "Colleges," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, July 5, 2007, New Orleans Picayune, p. 9. See also: John Pope, "SUNO campus quiet but busy; Recovery progress is seen by officials," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, September 10, 2007, Metro, p. 1. See also: John Pope and Robert Travis Scott, "Lagging recovery prompts SUNO rally; Students, educators and politicians cry foul," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, October 11, 2007, Metro, p. 1.
- Stephen Maloney, "N.O. colleges lobby state for more aid," New Orleans CityBusiness, June 7, 2007.
- John Pope, "Center of Attention; UNO's University Center slowly but surely recovering from Katrina," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, September 27, 2009, Metro,
- John Pope, "4 colleges get federal loans; Schools to rebuild ruined campuses," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, July 12, 2007, Metro,
- John Pope, "Rally today aims to shine light on university's plight; 'If we do nothing, SUNO will die'," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, October 10, 2007, Metro,
p. 1. See also: John Pope, "3 permanent buildings planned for SUNO's 'temporary' campus; Portable structures will be replaced," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, December 15, 2007, Metro, p. 1.
- Alicia Duplessis, "Storm-Proofed Buildings on the Rise," Tulane University NewWave, February 13, 2008, http://tulane.edu/news/newwave/021308_renovations.cfm, accessed 02/13/08.
- "Louisiana's Tulane University hits $1B in endowment funding," New Orleans CityBusiness, July 26, 2007. See also: Kelly W. Brown, "Interview with Jeremy Crigler: New chief investment officer, Tulane University," CityBusiness, New Orleans, January 21, 2008, http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-15154544.html, accessed 05/02/08.
- Bruce Alpert, "Local colleges make pitch for low-interest recovery loans House approves; they turn to Senate," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, May 15, 2008, National,
- Michael Strecker, "Tulane-Backed Effort Becomes Law," Tulane University NewWave, August 18, 2008, http://tulane.edu/news/newwave/081808_higher_education.cfm, accessed 08/18/08.
- "Nominated for Award," Tulane University NewWave, July 28, 2008, http://tulane.edu/news/newwave/newssplash_0708.cfm, accessed 07/28/08.
- John Pope, "Tulane launching $1 billion drive; University seeking to beef up endowment," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, September 13, 2009, Metro,
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