Harvard spent $595,000 lobbying in Washington, D.C., in 2019, a figure $5,000 less than its 2018 spending, according to the University’s lobbying disclosures.
Representatives from Harvard’s Office for Federal Relations, joined by University President Lawrence S. Bacow, have continued to lobby the White House and Congress on issues including immigration, student financial aid, and an excise tax on the University’s $40.9 billion endowment.
In recent months, Bacow has met with U.S. Senator Benjamin E. Sasse ’94 (R-Neb.), U.S. Representative Jamie B. Raskin ’83 (D-Md.), U.S. Representative Juan C. Vargas (D-Calif.,), and Representative Joshua K. Harder (D-Calif.), and U.S. Representative Bradley R. Byrne (R-Ala.), according to University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain.
Bacow frequently visits Washington to “make the case” for Harvard’s higher-education policy priorities, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Temporary Protected Status programs, immigration, and research funding, according to University spokesperson Jason A. Newton.
DACA is an Obama-era program that allows some young undocumented people to live and work in the United States; TPS is a program that grants immigrants from certain countries protected status because they cannot return home due to circumstances like ongoing armed conflict and environmental disaster.
“President Bacow is actively engaged with members and leaders when they visit campus, as well as through correspondence and telephone conversations,” Newton wrote in an emailed statement. “In 2020, he has already traveled to DC once and likely will have other trips during the year.”
In January, Bacow penned a letter to United States President Donald Trump urging him not to expand the controversial travel ban, a federal policy announced in early 2017 that restricted entry to the United States from several Muslim-majority countries.
Harvard’s lobbying efforts in 2019 saw wins on higher education-related tax legislation. Efforts to repeal the endowment tax — which is estimated to cost the University $37.7 million over the fiscal year 2019 — still remain a work-in-progress. Passed by a Republican-controlled legislative branch 2017, the tax would levy a 1.4 percent tax on net investment income for universities with large endowments.
Bacow continues to call for a repeal of the “unprecedented and damaging tax,” according to Newton.
“Harvard is joined in these efforts by many of these schools and leading higher education associations, like AAU, ACE, and AICUM, as we work toward repeal of this tax,” Newton wrote in an emailed statement.
In 2019, the Office for Federal Relations successfully advocated for two tax changes in the “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020.” The act, signed into law last December, restored tax protections for scholarship grants and repealed a new tax on transportation benefits for nonprofits, according to Swain.
Harvard administrators also continued to monitor changes to financial aid policies in 2019. Trump’s Fiscal Year 2021 proposal requests $64 billion for the Department of Education, which is $7.1 billion less than the 2019 appropriation. The proposal also reduces Pell Grant funding by $2 billion.
Of all undergraduates at the College, 16 percent of students receive Pell Grants as part of their financial aid packages, according to the University’s website.
Newton wrote in an email that the plan “proposed steep cuts” in non-Defense spending below “previously approved bipartisan topline spending for FY21.”
“Like many in higher education, Harvard is concerned that it would roll back many of the increases of recent years on education spending and research,” Newton wrote. “However, there remains bipartisan Congressional support for these priorities, and we continue to work for stronger funding outcomes in the final spending legislation.”
Harvard is currently advocating for certain provisions within the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, federal legislation that governs student financial aid programs and grants to universities, according to Newton. These include expanded Pell Grants, stronger benefits for professional and graduate students, and language surrounding Harvard’s policies on single-gender social organizations.
Newton wrote that, beyond frequent travels to the nation’s capital, Bacow also meets with civic leaders when they come to campus.
“In addition, President Bacow is actively engaged with members and leaders when they visit campus, as well as through correspondence and telephone conversations,” Newton wrote. “In 2020, he has already traveled to DC once and likely will have other trips during the year.”
Correction: February 21, 2020
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that U.S. Senator Benjamin E. Sasse ’94 represents Nevada. In fact, he represents Nebraska.
Correction: February 21, 2020
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the endowment tax is expected to cost Harvard $49.8 million. In fact, it is expected to cost $37.7 million.
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