Oxford University will use a record donation to abolish the tuition fee increase for its poorest students – keeping fees at £3,500 per year.

In a bid to remove financial barriers, eligible students will also receive funding for all their living costs. With matched funding, a £75m donation from Michael Moritz and his wife Harriet Heyman is set to rise to £300m. This is being claimed as the biggest such financial support package in European university history.

At the launch of the scholarships, Oxford’s vice-chancellor, Andrew Hamilton, spoke of the importance of “ensuring that all barriers – real or perceived – are removed from students’ choices”.

University self-supporting

Mr Moritz, chairman of the US-based venture capital firm, Sequoia Capital, spoke of his own family’s debt to benefactors, when they had been refugees from Nazi Germany.

“I would not be here today were it not for the generosity of strangers,” said Mr Moritz.

From his business experience in the US, he said many of the great innovators were from “the most unlikely and impossible circumstances”. But their progress had been made possible by university scholarships- and he wanted to support such opportunities.

The financial package will be worth about £11,000 per student per year – and will be available for students from families with an income below £16,000 per year.

This will continue in perpetuity – using the investment income from the donation – in a way similar to the endowments that underpin the finances of major US universities. It also marks a UK university taking a greater step towards self-funding some students – and loosening its students’ reliance on the state-funded student finance system.

Under the scholarship scheme, students will only have to borrow the £3,500 per year, rather than the £9,000 which will be charged from this autumn.

Professor Hamilton spoke of his concern about the deterrent effect of the debts facing students, when fees are £9,000 per year. Charlotte Anderson, currently studying German at the university, said she was the first person in her family to go to university – and that debt had been a major cultural obstacle for her family.

“All they saw was a huge debt – and the stress attached to that… they couldn’t see beyond it.”

She said that attending a summer school made her change her mind about seeing Oxford as a credible option.

Reaching out

Jo Dibb, head teacher of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in north London, said that poorer parents were often “desperate to support their children” – but couldn’t support their children as easily as better-off families and were afraid of getting into debt. She said the scholarships could help “the brightest young people who slip away now”. Mr Moritz, who went to school in Cardiff and attended Oxford in the 1970s, said that for families with £16,000 per year, the level of student debt represented a “terrifying figure”.

About one in 10 of Oxford’s students are from families with an income below this threshold – and the first wave of scholarships will be awarded this autumn. The intention is that within three years half of all eligible students will receive this support package – with the later aim of rolling it out to all students from such low-income families.

Earlier this week, the university admissions service, Ucas, published figures showing that applications had fallen by 8.9%, raising concerns that potential students were being deterred by the increase in fees.

Last week, the Office for Fair Access published a report showing that universities were switching more of their funding into outreach projects, such as summer schools. The fair access watchdog also produced figures comparing the proportion of students eligible for full state support – with Oxford having among the lowest levels of such poorer students.

The university has been investing heavily to attract students from a wider range of social backgrounds, putting £2.5m into outreach and £6.6m on bursaries. Oxford’s latest announcement of such a large-scale scholarship programme will raise comparisons with leading US universities. The income from endowments allows them to offer places to the most talented, regardless of income or nationality, with means-testing then determining any level of fee.

The biggest source of Harvard’s operating income is its endowments, worth £24bn at present. Fees provide only about a fifth of its operating costs.

Oxford’s biggest source of income is external research, accounting for two-fifths of income. Professor Hamilton said the challenge for UK universities facing budget pressures was to diversify their incomes – including encouraging such philanthropy as the donation from Mr Moritz and Ms Heyman.

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This morning, Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter and other OIN leaders joined the leadership of The American Revolution Center in Washington, D.C. to announce a $10 million gift from the Oneidas to the Center in accordance with the Center’s $40 million Lenfest challenge announced last month.

The gift according to an OIN press release was “made in part to recognize the little known, but extraordinary role the Oneidas played in the Revolutionary War.” It also puts the center a quarter of the way to it’s goal to construct The Museum of the American Revolution.

During America’s War for Independence the hardships and lost lives the colonists endured was shared by the Oneidas who fought in support of them.

“The contributions and tremendous sacrifices of the Oneida people as America’s first ally in the Revolutionary War, resulted in an ongoing friendship and treaty relationship between the Oneida Nation and the United States for more than two centuries” Halbritter said at the presentation. “Our commitment to the American Revolution Center furthers that friendship and ensures that the resilience displayed together by America’s founding fathers and the Oneida people continue to serve as inspiration to everyone who wishes to understand the shared history of the Oneida Nation and America.”

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In a signal of its growing reach into the city’s education sector, the William Penn Foundation will give $15 million to fund innovations in Philadelphia public, private, and charter schools over the next three years.

William Penn has pledged the money to the Philadelphia School Partnership, which will award grants to some schools this month, with other awards coming before the end of the year. It’s a major step forward in the newer nonprofit’s goal of raising $100 million in five years to speed up the pace of educational change.

Although William Penn has traditionally given grants in the “children, youth and families” arena, president Jeremy Nowak told The Inquirer that going forward, the foundation would focus more narrowly on “closing the achievement gap” for low-income students, with an emphasis on global standards.

“This is putting a stake in the ground about the need for great schools,” Nowak said in an interview.

Nowak said the gift would help foster the ideals of the Great Schools Compact, a document recently signed by representatives of the Philadelphia School District, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, charter school organizations, and city and state officials that pledges to close or overhaul 50,000 seats in “low-performing” schools and replace them with high-quality ones, possibly in charters, in the next five years.

“We love the idea of the compact,” Nowak said. “Close down what doesn’t work, scale up what does work, use good information.”

Janet Haas, a physician and William Penn’s board chair, said the new direction reflected the foundation’s view that “there are few issues more important to our region than closing the achievement gap and reforming Philadelphia’s broken schools.”

“The status quo has failed the children of this city for too long,” Haas said in a statement. “The costs of educational failure are too high. Solutions to Philadelphia’s difficult, long-term education problems are attainable, but they involve significant change, which won’t be easy.”

The moves by William Penn and the Philadelphia School Partnership are in line with the goals of the current School Reform Commission, which has signaled its plans for overhauling the district, closing struggling schools and expanding strong ones.

For the Philadelphia School Partnership, William Penn’s gift is just a start.

Executive director Mark Gleason said Thursday that while William Penn’s $15 million donation was its largest to date, the organization was close to announcing “additional large commitments that will bring us north of $30 million, maybe even north of $40 million,” in its “Great Schools Fund.”

The Philadelphia School Partnership hopes to award between $8 million and $12 million in grants this year, with up to $10 million to $15 million given in subsequent years, said Gleason, whose organization is not yet two years old but is clearly rising in influence.

“We are seriously looking at investments in the public district sector, the public charter sector, and the Catholic sector,” said Gleason, who also facilitates the work of the Great Schools Compact. He said about a dozen applications were being vetted across all those types of schools.

The organization awarded $2.4 million last year to charter providers turning around district schools. Mastery Charter Schools, Aspira Inc. of Pennsylvania, and Universal Cos. Inc. all received funding in 2011 for their “Renaissance schools.”

In some cases, grants of a few hundred thousand dollars will pay for planning for schools that don’t yet exist; in others, the money will help new schools ready to open but in need of capital to buy computers, secure a building, or train staff, for instance; in still others, the money will help strong existing schools expand.

“We’re trying to raise $100 million, and if we do, we can have a direct impact on a large number of students – we’re scaling reform,” Gleason said. “Even more important, potentially, is that if we can raise $100 million from a broad cross-section of funders that cuts across traditional political and ideological boundaries, we think we can help to change the dialogue in Philadelphia away from the tension and rivalries between different kinds of schools and into a more collaborative focus on how we can all work together to make sure we have lots of good school options.”

In a city where there has historically been great tension, particularly between public and charter schools, that would represent a sea change.

Nowak said he believed William Penn’s donation encourages others to kick in to the Philadelphia School Partnership.

“We hope it will attract national money,” Nowak said. “That would be good. I think the Gates Foundation will put some money in, though at the end of the day, I love the idea that local philanthropy will put up the lion’s share.”

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has already awarded Philadelphia a $100,000 planning grant for the work of the Great Schools Compact. The city is competing for more money from Gates.

The rising influence of William Penn and the Philadelphia School Partnership and the Great Schools Compact is not universally admired. Some fear that the compact gives short shrift to the district schools.

And when William Penn spent $1.5 million this year to fund the Boston Consulting Group’s examination of the district’s finances and operations to help arrive at an overhaul plan for the beleaguered organization, many were wary of a plan they call too corporate, too expensive, and too secret. District officials have since said their draft transformation plan is not final, is subject to more public input, and won’t be approved until next year.

“Unless you gave everybody ice cream, there was going to be some suspicion,” Nowak said of the plan.

Haas, the William Penn board chair, defended the decision to fund the consultants.

“The SRC wisely decided that it was time to get help from outside experts,” Haas said in a statement. “Insiders have not done a great job of helping our schools to succeed in recent years. BCG has an outstanding track record of helping to turn around urban districts in crisis, and we were more than happy to support their efforts to identify solutions. The cost of the work is not insignificant, but we think this is money well spent given how critical the success of the School District is to the futures of our children, families, and city.”

The consultants began work in the district this winter, but none of their findings have been made public. Haas said that BCG’s analysis and recommendations, due in a few days, will be “fully transparent.”

Gleason said that when the coming announcement about more money for the Philadelphia School Partnership is made, some donors have asked to remain anonymous, but most will be named.

“The folks who are critical or wary of these sorts of donations are missing the point, because they’re focusing on intentions or perceived intentions,” Gleason said. “What we’re trying to do here is get people focused on outcomes.”

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Today, in advance of the Fourth of July holiday, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the nation’s first and largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, launched the first of its kind Veteran Support Fund, a groundbreaking new initiative that challenges Americans to raise $30 million in support for critical nonprofit programs and resources benefitting Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families. TheVeteran Support Fund, pioneered by entrepreneurs and philanthropists Philip D. Green and his wife Dr. Elizabeth Cobbs, Glenn and Laurie Garland, and Jim and Patty Stimmel, establishes a centralized platform where Americans can support and donate to a consortium of effective and trusted best-in-class veterans’ organizations including IAVA, Operation Mend, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Operation Homefront and the National Military Family Association.

“Ten years ago, someone else’s sons and daughters went to war. I was able to sleep at night dreaming of my kid’s medical school graduation while another parent was up all night worrying about whether their child would survive on patrol in Iraq or Afghanistan. As parents, my wife and I want to ensure that the sacrifices of these veterans and their families do not go unnoticed. Our family and children have enjoyed tremendous freedoms and success because these men and women put on the uniform—and they deserve more than a handshake when they get home,” said Philip D. Green, Co-Founder of The Veteran Support Fund and President of PDG Consulting. “Yet, our society does not do nearly enough to support them in return. Starting this innovative Veteran Support Fund is our attempt to level the playing field for new veterans and their families. All Americans, especially civilians, owe it to our veterans to make a financial sacrifice commensurate with the sacrifices that they have carried for our nation. My wife and I want to do everything in our capacity to turn the tide on giving to veterans and start a nationwide movement of Americans who can and will give back to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans because we owe them nothing less.”

“Supporting veterans isn’t charity, it’s an absolute necessity and an investment in our country’s future. After ten years of war, our nation’s military families are strained, nonprofit services are maxed out and our veterans’ community is severely under-resourced. We are at a watershed moment in the history of these wars and theVeteran Support Fund is the game-changer we need to transform support and resources at home,” said IAVA Founder and Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff. “As the war winds down in Afghanistan, we need a strong foundation of trusted, best-in-class nonprofit organizations working together to deliver diverse and critical resources across our community. Through their generous commitments, the Green, Garland and Stimmel families are stepping up to meet this challenge. They have challenged other Americans to follow their lead. IAVA and our partners are indebted to these Founders of the Veteran Support Fund for their inspiration, drive and support. Together, we will transform hundreds of thousands of veterans’ lives forever.”

The Founders

The Veteran Support Fund is the groundbreaking initiative of three generous and visionary families led by entrepreneurs and philanthropists Philip D. Green and his wife Dr. Elizabeth Cobbs, Glenn and Laurie Garland, and Jim and Patty Stimmel. As parents, whose children never served in uniform, they are determined to rally American families, foundations and corporations nationwide to impact and transform the lives of the 2.4 million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Their initial founding gifts totaling $1.1 million to launch the Veteran Support Fund are made possible in part by Geisinger Health System, the Mission Health System in Asheville North Carolina and Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. To learn more about the Founders of the Veteran Support Fund and their mission, visit www.iava.org/vsf.

The Partners

The Veteran Support Fund currently consists of five partner organizations that touch the lives of veterans and their families in a tailored, critical way, ranging from offering free cutting-edge reconstructive surgery for wounded veterans to supporting the children and families of our fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan. All partners have 501(c)(3) status with critical missions, strong financial health, seasoned leaders, broad national impact and scalable models, and a high percentage of expenses strictly devoted to programming. The five partner organizations include:

  • Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) provides core health, education, employment and community programs to build an empowered generation of veteran leaders for our country and their local communities.
  • Operation Mend provides lifelong medical support to a limited number of critically injured Iraq and Afghanistan active and retiring service members and veterans.
  • Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) provides ongoing emotional help, hope, and healing to all who are grieving the death of a loved one in military service to America.
  • Operation Homefront provides emergency financial aid and other assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors.
  • National Military Family Association (NMFA) fights for benefits and programs that strengthen and protect uniformed services families and reflect the Nation’s respect for their service.

The Veteran Support Fund encourages all Americans, especially civilians, to repay the special debt of gratitude we owe to veterans and their families. The Fund accepts all gifts regardless of amount from individuals, corporations, and foundations both public and private. To learn more about the Veteran Support Fund, visit www.iava.org/vsf.

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On June 27, the Case Foundation was pleased to join our fellow leadership committee members at the White House along with other corporate, government, and nonprofit leaders who are creating social change through skills-based volunteerism. We were part of a celebration and a challenge issued by A Billion + Change, a national campaign to mobilize billions of dollars of pro bono and skills-based volunteer services from the business community to nonprofits.

More than half of the 200 companies that have pledged to create or expand skills-based volunteering programs joined us to talk about how far corporations have come in the past 10 years or so in enabling their employees to donate their skills, and not just their time, to nonprofits. We talked about not only the benefits to companies’ nonprofit partners, but also to their employees and to their bottom line.

Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama and the Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, opened the forum and said that companies participating in A Billion + Change were a model for others driving positive social change around the world. Her comments were echoed later in the day by Gene Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, and by Billion + Change Honorary Chairman Senator Mark Warner, who said that at a time when nonprofits are facing decreased revenues and more work, pro bono from corporations is increasingly vital.

The sentiments from leaders in the public sector were matched by those in the private sector. Our CEO Jean Case led a panel with leaders from Deloitte, the Ritz-Carlton, Capital One, COTTON7, and Golin Harris to talk about the business benefits of supporting employee pro bono. Across the board, each of the panelists said that his employees and his company received at least as much value from nonprofit partners as was provided. Pro bono was characterized as a win-win-win proposition for companies, employees, and nonprofits.

We have come a long way since Jean Case helped to start A Billion + Change in 2008 when she was a member of the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation. So far, we are proud to announce that more than 200 companies have pledged over $1.8 billion and nearly 12 million hours worth of time and talent to nonprofits.

But, we still have a way to go to reach our goal. We are seeking a total of 500 companies willing to pledge their best business skills and talents to build the capacity of nonprofits at home and around the world. Together, we will inspire the largest commitment of corporate pro bono service in history so that one day, skills-based volunteering will be the ‘new normal’ in every workplace.

To join us in the pro bono movement, visit www.abillionpluschange.org and make a pledge.

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Two Hartford Healthcare units – the Institute of Living and the Helen & Harry Gray Cancer Center — have received major grants.

The Institute of Living at Hartford Hospital received a $4.4 million donation from an anonymous donor to help fund the Olmsted landscape rehabilitation project.

The donor was a patient at the Institute of Living during the 1940’s. She was treated at the Institute of Living with insulin shock treatment after suffering from a severe breakdown. Her family recalls her saying that the Institute of Living, “Gave her back her life.”

Some of the donation will be used to fund the Olmsted landscape rehabilitation project. Numerous trees on the grounds of The Institute of Living represent rare or unusually large species. Many of the trees on the grounds are thought to date back to the 1860’s. The funding will be used to replace damaged or deceased trees along the tree walk.

Frederick Law Olmsted, one of America’s famous landscape architects, designed the grounds of The Institute in 1861. The design was executed by Olmsted and his protégé, Jacob Weidenmann. Frederick Law Olmsted was a 19th century visionary and pioneer conservationist who founded the profession of landscape and architect in America. Some of his other designs include Central Park in New York City, the Boston Park System, and the U.S. Capitol Grounds in Washington, D.C.

At a recent tree planting ceremony, the last of the 17 new specimen trees was planted in an effort to restore the grounds of the Institute of Living to their historic magnificence. The Institute of Living was founded in 1822 and was one of the first mental health centers in the United States.

Meanwhile, Hartford Hospital’s Helen & Harry Gray Cancer Center was again selected as part of network of community cancer centers under the umbrella of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health.

The Helen & Harry Gray Cancer Center, a member of the NCI Community Cancer Centers Program since it began in 2007, has been awarded approximately $500,000 annually to fund participation in the network for the next two years. The Hartford center is the only facility in New England to be part of the national network.

The NCCCP is a collaborative network of community hospitals working to expand cancer research, enhance access to cancer care and improve the quality of care for cancer patients served by community hospitals with an emphasis on underserved populations.

Leadership Greater Hartford endowment

To mark its 35th anniversary, Leadership Greater Hartford has established an endowment fund at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

Grants from the fund will be used by Leadership Greater Hartford to support its mission to develop, connect and inspire diverse leaders to build strong and vibrant communities throughout Greater Hartford. This is accomplished through programs that provide experiential learning through workshops, tours and hands-on team projects. Leadership Greater Hartford brings together and trains a diverse array of community-minded individuals, representing all ages, socioeconomic levels, home towns, and occupations.

“The endowment fund will ensure that Leadership Greater Hartford is able to sustain our 35-year history of building leaders while building community” said Ted Carroll, president of Leadership Greater Hartford.

Nancy Bernstein of West Hartford is serving as the establishing donor of this new endowment. Bernstein has served on Leadership Greater Hartford’s Board of Directors, currently serves on its Legacy Advisors committee and is the president and CEO of Women’s Health Connecticut in Avon.

She said, “In 2002, when I was first introduced to Leadership Greater Hartford’s Quest program, I realized the positive impact it had on me as well as my company’s role in the community. To help secure its future is an honor for me and critically important for the Greater Hartford region.”

Founded in 1977 with support from the Hartford Foundation, Leadership Greater Hartford was originally developed by the Greater Hartford Chamber of Commerce as a year-long program to provide leaders and emerging leaders with skills and knowledge needed to be effective in a changing world.

HEDCO gets $10,000

The People’s United Community Foundation, the philanthropic arm of People’s United Bank, has awarded a $10,000 grant to HEDCO Inc. in Hartford.

HEDCO helps to stimulate economic development by collaborating with public and private organizations to help start, finance, retain and recruit small businesses in all of Connecticut’s 169 cities and towns. The funding from People’s United Community Foundation will support the statewide expansion of HEDCO’s small business development services.

“The funding from People’s United Community Foundation will help us implement our new technology plan,” stated Samuel Hamilton, chief executive officer of HEDCO. “Our new, interactive web site will make HEDCO’s financial and technical assistance more accessible and convenient to small businesses across Connecticut.”

In brief

Mike D’Antoni, coach of the men’s Olympic basketball team and the New York Knicks, has donated over $20,000 worth of business suits and professional attire to the Save a Suit Foundation in Shelton. The nonprofit organization provides business suits and clothing to military veterans and soon-to-be college graduates… Cumberland Farms’ six-month-long Pediatric Care Campaign is nearing the finish line in Connecticut and Western Massachusetts. Participating Cumberland Farms stores will donate five cents per cup from its Chill Zone sales throughout July to benefit Connecticut Children’s Medical Center… The TD Charitable Foundation is accepting nominations from homeless shelter and transitional housing programs. The foundation will select 25 programs across the bank’s East Coast footprint to receive $100,000 grants. The award of $2.5 million represents the foundation’s seventh annual “Housing for Everyone” grant competition.

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Pittsburgh City Council approved legislation Monday that sets up a new round of contributions from a few dozen nonprofit groups, but did so only after a flurry of last-minute questions and complaints that hung up the deal for a couple of hours.

Under the agreement, the Pittsburgh Public Service Fund — made up of about 40 nonprofits — collectively will contribute an estimated $5.2 million to $5.4 million over the next two years. The groups make the voluntary contributions because they don’t pay property taxes on their land and buildings.

Although some members said they wanted a lot more money than $5.4 million, council gave the agreement preliminary approval last week.

The final vote, scheduled for Monday morning, was delayed when Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak complained that she hadn’t received a list of nonprofits that contributed to the service fund in 2010 and 2011. In addition, Ms. Rudiak amended the bill to direct city Controller Michael Lamb to perform a study of the costs the city incurs providing police, fire and other services to tax-exempt groups.

By the time council took up the bill again at an afternoon meeting, the city finance department had provided the list of contributors from 2010 and 2011. Council praised some small nonprofits, such as the Allentown senior citizens, for giving money to the fund and criticized others for not giving enough.

“They understand the importance of being part of something greater than themselves,” Councilman Bruce Kraus said of the Allentown seniors.

Although University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has made a $100 million contribution to the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship fund, it does not contribute to the city — something that has repeatedly drawn council members’ ire.

The 40 or so nonprofits in the service fund are a small number of tax-exempt groups in the city. Another 10 to 20 nonprofits have negotiated separate payments in lieu of taxes that jointly will yield the city $450,000 to $500,000 this year.

Nonprofits “are good partners, but they could be better partners,” Councilman Ricky Burgess, the finance chairman, said.

The new agreement notwithstanding, council President Darlene Harris said she and other members will continue efforts to coax more money from nonprofits.

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