Sunday, September 07, 2008


Readers were split about whether colleges and universities are ethically obliged to spend part of their endowments each year to make college tuition more affordable. According to an unscientific poll on my column's blog, 50 percent of my readers think that colleges are obliged to do so, while 50 percent believe that colleges have no moral obligation to ease tuition pain.

"Public universities, founded by and for the people, would seem to have an ethical obligation to offer affordable college tuition to a portion of their citizenry," Eric Erickson of Minneapolis writes. "Private universities should have the option to decide whether or not to discount the value of their services."

Charlie Seng of Lancaster, S.C., counters.

"The endowments of colleges provide for allowing the institution to continue to exist and grow in these troubled financial times," he says, "not to provide tuition for needy students."

Phil Clutts of Harrisburg, N.C., concurs.

"Why should the state or federal government require anybody to do anything with funds that they privately and legitimately raised," Clutts asks, "as long as the contributors know how the money is being spent?"

Christopher Lincoln of Minnesota takes the same view, but with a cautionary note: "Private universities have the right to price themselves into oblivion," he writes.

Check out other opinions here, or post your own by clicking on "Comments" or "Post a comment" below.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business and The Good, the Bad, and Your Business: Choosing Right When Ethical Dilemmas Pull You Apart, is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to or to "The Right Thing," The New York Times Syndicate, 500 Seventh Avenue, 8th floor, New York, NY 10018. Please remember to tell me who you are, where you're from, as well as where you read the column.

c.2008 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)

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