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Harvard is the richest college in America, and it was just promised $400 million more
Hedge fund manager John A. Paulson is donating $400 million to Harvard University's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. - photo by JJ Feinauer
Hedge fund manager John A. Paulson is donating $400 million to Harvard University's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, according the Wall Street Journal, and there are those who think that may not have been the best use of a couple hundred million dollars.

"Let me be extremely clear: Harvard is not a charity," Vox's Dylan Matthews wrote in reaction to the announcement. "If you want to donate to it as a bribe to help your kids get in, go nuts. ... But if you want to make the world a better place, your dollars are better spent literally anywhere else."

As Matthews points out, Harvard is "the most lavishly endowed university in the world," and according to their own financial reports, has literally billions of dollars at its disposal.

This also isn't the first time a donation to Harvard has turned some heads. Last year, real estate billionaire Gerald Chan donated $350 million to the School of Public Health. A donation that held the record for Harvard until Paulson came along.

"The gift is part of a wave of enormous donations to schools with large endowments in recent years that highlights the diverging fortunes of the nation's colleges," The Wall Street Journal wrote at the time of Chan's donation.

It's little surprise, however, that Harvard would generate so much money. According to a report by The Atlantic from 2013, Harvard has the highest number of billionaire alumni in the country.

But that's no excuse, Matthews argues, for the astounding amount of money the university receives.

"Giving to Harvard is not philanthropy," he continued. "It's not helping people who need help, and it's obscene that Paulson is getting a massive tax write-off for it."

And Matthews hasn't been the only vocal critic of the record-setting donation. Popular author and New Yorker columnist Malcolm Gladwell made a rare dive into Twitter-rant territory when he heard the news.

Gladwell, like Matthews, was particularly scandalized by the notion that Harvard somehow needed the money to continue operations.

But according to Market Watch's Jillian Berman, the recent rise in outlandish donations to wealthy schools isn't really about money at all.

"His tendency to publicly lavish resources on some of the nations richest schools ensures that the giver will be remembered forever (or at least until someone else makes a bigger donation) as a beneficiary of a cultural institution," Berman wrote.

For that reason, according to Berman, many wealthy donors seek out high-profile institutions, such as Harvard, because "rich people tend to become less generous when no one knows theyre giving."