By Bob Hildreth

Testimony Before the Joint Committee on Higher Education on H.1201, H.1228, H.1232, & S.753, “An Act Relative to the Endowment Match Program”

Chairs Gobi and Roy, Vice Chairs Comerford and Arciero, and members of the Joint Committee on Higher Education:

My name is Bob Hildreth and I am the founder of the Hildreth Institute, Inversant, and La Vida Scholars: three non-profit organizations with complementary missions to get low-income students to college.

As the son of two public school teachers, I am a firm believer in the power of education, which is why I have devoted much of my philanthropic giving and activities to education.

We know that higher education is central to the success of our commonwealth, and that graduates of our public colleges and universities are the future of our highly educated workforce.

But state aid to our public higher education system has decreased by a third since 2001, resulting in higher tuitions and fees, and more debt that burdens students and their families.

Re-investment in public higher education is imperative, and as a philanthropist, I am prepared to do my part. The state has an opportunity to incentivize philanthropists like me to support our public institutions and raise millions of additional private dollars for community colleges, state universities, and the UMass campuses.

When considering where to give, philanthropists look for opportunities where our money can go further and have a greater impact. An Act Relative to the Endowment Match Program would incentivize private donors like me to invest in our public colleges and universities by matching their donations with public funds, at a rate of $1 in state funds for every $2 in private contributions. Only private contributions made in support of academic purposes — such as scholarships and endowed chairs — would be eligible for government matches.

Massachusetts already successfully implemented this strategy in the 1990s, and it was a great success. Public campuses raised over $125 million in private contributions over the first four years of the Endowment Incentive Program, with the state matching these donations with $50 million in additional funding to campuses. That’s a 250 percent return on the state’s investment! Twenty-four other states have created similar matching fund programs, which all have proven to yield substantial returns on investment.

Senator Lesser and Representatives Arciero, Madaro, and McMurtry have each filed similar versions of this bill, which would make a one-time appropriation to the Endowment Incentive Program of $10 million for the UMass system, $5 million for state universities, and $5 million for community colleges. I am here today to ask you to support and pass this bill, as we should not pass on the opportunity to attract millions of dollars in additional funding for public higher education.

Thank you for considering my testimony, and I hope you will give a favorable report to An Act Relative to the Endowment Match Program.