July 25, 2018 – Education

Charles Koch Outlines His Vision for Higher Education


In an open letter published today, Charles Koch shares his motivation for supporting higher education for more than 50 years. In the past several years especially, the Charles Koch Foundation has seen more and more schools reaching out. As Charles states, we continue to respond with increasing support and hope this letter reinforces and clarifies the vision behind our giving:

“Over the years, the work we’ve supported has evolved, but the kinds of grant proposals that attract our attention have remained consistent. We support scholarly work that contributes to an understanding of how best to achieve a society of equal rights and mutual benefit, where people succeed by helping others. We focus on programs that fill a need, have a real-world impact, and foster what I call a three-dimensional education. By that I mean programs that enable students to identify their innate abilities, turn them into valued skills, and apply them in ways that contribute to society.”

As The Wall Street Journal and Chronicle of Higher Education report, the Foundation sees an opportunity to better connect partners with the principles that guide giving by implementing practices such as publishing future major university agreements:

The Wall Street Journal: “The Charles Koch Foundation says it will post online all future multiyear grant agreements with universities … ‘There has been a lot of mischaracterization of our grants in the past,’ said Brian Hooks, the foundation’s president. ‘The opportunity to be crystal-clear about how our foundation interacts with universities is a good opportunity.'”

Chronicle of Higher Education: “Along with its transparency push, the foundation is publishing what Jacobson described as a ‘refined articulation’ of its giving principles as well as an open letter from Charles Koch about his support for higher education.”

Politico Pro and Inside Higher Ed note the Foundation giving principles guarantee that “faculty call the shots” on research:

Politico Pro: “Trice Jacobson, a spokesman for the foundation, said the decision was made to make the agreements public because, with ‘increasingly more outreach coming from the academy, we saw a chance to connect more folks with the great experience we’ve had supporting scholars and help set a standard for what shape that can take.’ … The foundation also posted its ‘giving principles,’ which explain that ‘faculty call the shots’ and that ‘schools provide the academic environment.'”

Inside Higher Ed: “The foundation also has made public its giving standards, including that ‘faculty call the shots’ and ‘schools provide the academic environment.’ ‘We structure our gifts to support the vision of a faculty member or principal investigator and ensure her academic independence,’ reads the principles document. ‘We’re excited to support hundreds of schools ranging from small liberal arts colleges to state research universities to Ivy League schools. Each grant we make follows the school’s standard procedures when it comes to hiring, curriculum, peer review and other policies.'”

Inside Higher Ed reports Foundation will “set a standard for what responsible and impactful university philanthropy looks like”:

The Wall Street Journal first reported on the policy shift. Tonya Mullins, a spokesperson for Koch, confirmed the change on Tuesday. ‘Especially in the past several years, we’ve seen more and more universities and scholars reaching out. And we’ve been happy to respond with increased support,’ Mullins said via email. Anticipating more proposals in the coming academic year, she added, ‘we saw an opportunity to be more explicit about the principles that have always guided our giving and helped set a standard for what responsible and impactful university philanthropy looks like.'”

This story was updated on July 25 to reflect continued coverage of the Charles Koch Foundation’s giving standards and principles and Charles Koch’s open letter on higher education.