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Koch family funding has influenced higher education across the country and in West Michigan

May 24, 2021

The Koch Brothers have been a financial dynasty and the creator of right wing networks that is far reaching in the United States and around the globe.

Over the decades the Koch Brothers have contributed millions to political candidates, spent millions on lobbying Congress, creating the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and a main driving force behind the State Policy Network, all of which is well documented on SourceWatch and in the book by Christopher Leonard, Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America. 

However, there is another arena that the Koch Brothers have also used their wealth and influence, an arena that is less know. The group UnKoch My Campus, has just released a new report which documents how the Koch dynasty has been funding universities all across the US. The report is entitled, Increased Funding, Increased Influence: Koch University Funding, May 2005 – 2019.

In its Executive Summary, the report states:

As the epicenter of modern day lobbying veers farther away from Washington, D.C. and into our daily lives, college campuses are increasingly subject to the influence of private and corporate influence. There are many culprits we can point to in this arena, but one billionaire donor has distinguished himself for his aggressively coordinated spending and wielding of political influence through university grants. 

Charles Koch, CEO of Koch Industries, has overseen over $458 million in grants to over 550 universities and higher ed adjacent non-profits since 2005. Unlike other philanthropists backing higher education, Koch gives to schools with the explicit goal of creating intellectual fodder for his network of political interest groups, and recruiting and training students to integrate into that network. 

Charles Koch himself admits that his funding of hundreds of universities across the country is intended to mainstream free market ideas and approaches to public policy that support the Koch network’s legislative goals at the state and federal levels:

“… there are basically four ways in which [the pro-capitalist businessman] can fight for free enterprise – through education, through the media, by legal challenges, and by political action… I do maintain, however, that the educational route is both the most vital and the most neglected… We should [support] only those programs, departments or schools that contribute in some way to our individual companies or to the general welfare of our free enterprise system.” 

The report documents how the Koch family has used various family foundations and the Charles Koch Institute, to funnel over $458 million dollars to influence universities all across the country. 

There is also a database, which provides an alphabetical run down of all the colleges and universities in the country that have received funding from the Koch dynasty between 2005 – 2019. Not surprising, there are several colleges and Universities in West Michigan that have been targeted by the Koch family with their wealth. 

Here is a run down of the West Michigan schools, including schools that have satellite campuses in West Michigan, and how much that have received:

Aquinas College $4,000

Ferris State University $194,495

Hope College $328,900

Michigan State University $417,842

University of Michigan $423,596

Western Michigan University $280,004

While these numbers are not as large as what the DeVos Family has contributed locally, it is important to think about how this funding influences institutes of higher learning in West Michigan, both in terms of content and how members of the Capitalist Class are able to have significant access to students and faculty because of their contributions. 

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