Public Records: 10 Story Ideas from the 990 Form

1. Independent Contractors. How much did your university pay its top five contractors? Do any have Board of Trustee or administrative connections? How many firms received over $100,000 in payment, compared to other colleges?

2. Lobbying. How much does your school pay in lobbying fees? Who are its lobbyists? And what is your university lobbying for? (Yes, your university lobbies.)

3. Administrative pay. What everyone whats to know. How does faculty pay increases compare to the head-honchos. How does it compare to others? Are they getting other perks, like a house, a loan or membership fees?

4. Endowment Funds. Increase? Decrease? How much in scholarships awarded? How much went to administrators?

5. Fundraiser activities and events. How successful were the fundraisers? How much did they bring in? How does the operation work?

6. Scholarships, grants and tuition remission. How many students receive scholarships, grants and tuition remission? How much did all that aid amount to?

7. Related organizations. What orgs fall under your school’s tax-exempt status? What are the for-profit arms of your university.

8. Salaries, wages and workers. How many employees and volunteers does your university list? How much does the institution pay in wages and salaries?

9. Advertising and Promotion. How much is spent on advertising? Where are they advertising? Compare that to enrollment: Is it working?

10. Government money. How much does your university receive per student?

Do you have any story ideas from the 990s? Share them in the comments.

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