The Financialization of Higher Education Report

By Dominic Russel, Alan Smith, Carrie Sloan |


Higher education in the U.S. is in a state of crisis. We see evidence of this crisis in huge cuts in funding for public schools, skyrocketing costs of attendance at both private and public schools, and increases in student debt burdens.

Financialization has a number of disturbing consequences for higher education, including increases in overall borrowing by colleges and universities, increases in the cost of interest payments on debt on a per-student basis, and a concentration of endowment assets at a small group of the wealthiest institutions—a form of concentration of wealth.This research is brought to you by the biggest victims of these deals: the students who have been shut out of the decisions that will shape their future.

The Financialization of Higher Education report has been covered in a host of national publications including Time Magazine, The New York Review of BooksBloomberg, and The Financial Times. In addition, the Report was picked up by local media on the following campuses: YaleMichigan State UniversityUniversity of Minnesota-Twin CitiesCornell UniversityCarnegie Melon University.


Note: A previous version of this report incorrectly stated that a high-level Bank of America executive sat on American’s board when it entered into swaps with the bank. The board member was a former executive at the time.

Also published on Medium.

Dominic Russel is a rising senior at the University of Michigan and the head of the Roosevelt Network’s Student Board of Advisors.

Alan Smith was a Senior Program Associate with the Roosevelt Institute. Capitalizing on work from students and alums, he supported the organization's mission to re-write the rules by driving the Rethinking Communities Initiative and Blueprint Series. He is a graduate of Swarthmore College, a veteran of the local campaign trail, and a proud alum of the Peabody Award-winning The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC.

Carrie Sloan is a Senior Research Analyst at the ReFund America Project, where she works with unions and community organizations on campaigns to restore the balance of economic power from Wall Street to Main Street.