Rolland and Gladys Benson’s gift to Faith Baptist Bible College was announced as $7.5 million, easily the largest in the school’s history. As a result of the donation, the board of trustees voted to freeze tuition for the 2008–2009 school year, set aside most of the gift for student scholarships, and made plans to add programs in missionary nursing, counseling and discipleship, and church planting.
But then Senator Charles Grassley caught wind of the news and added it to a press release he sent to his colleagues and every major media outlet. Grassley commended FBBC for earmarking the money for scholarships, tuition freezes, and new academic programs. “If a 400-student college can do it, so can others,” Grassley said.
As a result, his comments were entered into the Congressional Record, the Associated Press wrote a favorable and widely reprinted report, and the Des Moines Register published a profile on the college’s gift.
Then the New York Times picked up the story and responded with an editorial on March 18, 2008, comparing “tiny” Faith Baptist Bible College to Ivy League schools with huge endowments. (Harvard has an endowment of $35 billion, and Yale has $22.5 billion.) The Times pointed out that these colleges “have more money than the general fund budgets of the states in which they operate,” while “25 percent of college students are relying on credit cards to finance their learning.”
According to the Times, “The elite schools could learn from tiny Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, Iowa, which recently received $7.5 million from the will of a retired farm couple—the largest donation in school history. The school plans to freeze tuition rates and put the bulk of the money to work on scholarships. If the top 10 richest schools followed this model, everyone would attend for free. There’s a motto in Latin somewhere for this: less edifice—more education.”