Non-profit

American Council of Trustees and Alumni

Location:

Washington, DC

Tax ID:

52-1870003

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2019):

Revenue: $3,448,595
Expenses: $3,317,946
Assets: $6,601,004

Formation:

1995

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) is a conservative-leaning organization that encourages college and university trustees, alumni, and donors to take a more active role in setting institutional policy. [1]

The organization advocates against censorship on college campuses and for stronger academic standards. [2] The organization also critiques colleges for a lack of civics education. [3]

Background

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni focuses on advancing academic quality, accountability and affordability at colleges and universities in the United States. [4] ACTA encourages members of university and college boards of trustees to take a more activist role in governance. [5]

Founding members of the organization included former Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT), former chairwoman of the National Endowment for Humanities Lynne Cheney (R), and novelist Saul Bellow. [6]

The council says it is the only organization working with university and college alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders throughout the United States to protect the free exchange of ideas on campus and a high-quality college education at an affordable price. [7] [8]

In 2015, ACTA won the Heritage Foundation’s Salvatori Prize for American Citizenship for its “What Will They Learn” initiative that evaluated 1,100 colleges and universities. [9] ACTA’s survey focused on required undergraduate curricula, and how an institution’s faculty and administration guide a young person to acquire the fundamental tools for success in career and community life. [10]

Issues

ACTA says it supports three pillars: academic excellence, academic freedom, and accountability in higher education. [11]

For academic excellence, ACTA has raised public awareness about employer dissatisfaction with college graduates’ knowledge. [12]

Regarding academic freedom, the organization sponsors a “Free to Teach, Free to Learn” campaign that helps trustees ensure institutions encourages freedom of expression. [13]

In 2018, ACTA published “Building a Culture of Free Expression on the American College Campus: Challenges and Solutions.” [14]

In 2021, ACTA supported the “Campus Free Speech and Restoration Act” sponsored by Rep. Greg Murphy (R-NC). The legislation would require public and private universities to report First Amendment violations to the U.S. Department of Education and publicly share campus policies on free speech. [15]

In 2019, ACTA commissioned a survey conducted by the University of Chicago that found poor civics education in colleges and universities. Among other findings, the survey showed 18% of colleges require students to take courses in U.S. government or history. Further, 60% of respondents did not have basic information about the three branches of government. [16]

Trustees and Policymakers

Pursuant to its focus on accountability, ACTA sponsors the “Governance for a New Era” project, working with trustees and policymakers to advocate for policies to improve the financial and academic health of institutions. [17] The project is the result of a summit of 22 national higher education leaders chaired by former Yale University president Benno Schmidt, who was also the former chairman of the board of trustees for the City University of New York. [18]

ACTA produces an interactive web tool called “How Colleges Spend Money” to provide trustees with information about increasing college costs. ACTA also established the Institute for Effective Governance to conduct and publish research for college and university trustees. [19]

The council also provides resources to policymakers—primarily governors and state legislators—that play a role in governing public universities. ACTA experts have briefed lawmakers and provided testimony at state legislative and congressional hearings. [20]

Alumni

The group discourages alumni donors from simply giving to the school’s general fund or endowment, which can reinforce weak standards, campus speech codes, and other problems. The council established the “Fund for Academic Renewal” to help donors locate campus programs they would specifically be interested in funding. [21]

The council publishes the “Intelligent Donor’s Guide to College Giving” to give step-by-step instructions for donors on how to target their giving toward supporting or creating changes on campus. [22]

Leadership

John W. Altman is the chairman of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. He co-founded and served as executive vice president of Continental Polymers, Inc. A graduate of Miami University, he worked as a professor of business and entrepreneurship and as a member of the university’s board of trustees. [23]

Michael Poliakoff is the president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Poliakoff became president in 2016 after having served as vice president of policy. [24] He previously was the vice president for academic affairs and research at the University of Colorado. He also held senior roles at the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Council on Teacher Quality, the American Academy for Liberal Education, and the Pennsylvania Department of Education. [25]

Lauri Kempson, a senior vice president, has been with ACTA for over 20 years. Previously, Kempson owned a desktop publishing company in Los Angeles and was involved in K-12 school governance. She also edited and wrote technical manuals for Merrill Lynch in New York City. [26]

References

  1. Peterson, Hayley. “The 3-Minute Interview: Anne Neal.” Washington Examiner. September 27, 2011. Accessed July 10, 2021. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/the-3-minute-interview-anne-neal ^
  2. “Issues.” American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Accessed July 10, 2021. https://www.goacta.org/issues/ ^
  3. Pulgar, María Alejandra. “Bill Passed to Strengthen Civics Education in Florida.” Doral Family Journal. July 5, 2021. Accessed July 10, 2021. https://doralfamilyjournal.com/bill-passed-to-strengthen-civics-education-in-florida/ ^
  4. Peterson, Hayley. “The 3-Minute Interview: Anne Neal.” Washington Examiner. September 27, 2011. Accessed July 10, 2021. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/the-3-minute-interview-anne-neal ^
  5. Perez-Pena, Richard. “University of Virginia’s Crisis Reflects Wider Conflict.” New York Times. March 15, 2013. Accessed July 10, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/16/education/university-of-virginia-crisis-reflects-wider-fight.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 ^
  6. “Links-Leading Organizations.” Minding the Campus. November 25, 2013. Accessed July 10, 2021. https://www.mindingthecampus.org/links/ ^
  7. “Our Mission.” American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Accessed July 10, 2021. https://www.goacta.org/about/ ^
  8. “American Council of Trustees and Alumni.” LinkedIn. Accessed July 10, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/company/american-council-of-trustees-and-alumni/ ^
  9. Scanlon, Kate. “2015 Salvatori Prize Awarded to American Council of Trustees and Alumni.” Daily Signal. May 7, 2015. Accessed July 10, 2021. https://www.dailysignal.com/2015/05/07/2015-salvatori-prize-awarded-to-american-council-of-trustees-and-alumni/ ^
  10. “Students and Parents.” American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Accessed July 10, 2021. https://www.goacta.org/audience/students-parents/ ^
  11. “Issues.” American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Accessed July 10, 2021. https://www.goacta.org/issues/ ^
  12. “Issues.” American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Accessed July 10, 2021. https://www.goacta.org/issues/ ^
  13. “Issues.” American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Accessed July 10, 2021. https://www.goacta.org/issues/ ^
  14. Bahls, Steven. “FIRE, Aim, Ready!.” Inside Higher Ed. May 31, 2018. Accessed July 10, 2021. https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2018/05/31/weakness-recent-report-free-speech-american-council-trustees-and-alumni-opinion ^
  15. “Murphy Introduces the Campus Free Speech Restoration Act.” Office of Rep. Greg Murphy. June 17, 2021. https://gregmurphy.house.gov/media/press-releases/murphy-introduces-campus-free-speech-restoration-act ^
  16. Pulgar, María Alejandra. “Bill Passed to Strengthen Civics Education in Florida.” Doral Family Journal. July 5, 2021. Accessed July 10, 2021. https://doralfamilyjournal.com/bill-passed-to-strengthen-civics-education-in-florida/ ^
  17. “Issues.” American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Accessed July 10, 2021. https://www.goacta.org/issues/ ^
  18. “Trustees.” American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Accessed July 10, 2021. https://www.goacta.org/audience/trustees/ ^
  19. “Trustees.” American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Accessed July 10, 2021. https://www.goacta.org/audience/trustees/ ^
  20. “Policy Makers.” American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Accessed July 10, 2021. https://www.goacta.org/audience/policymakers/ ^
  21. Alumni. American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Accessed July 10, 2021. https://www.goacta.org/audience/alumni/ ^
  22. Alumni. American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Accessed July 10, 2021. https://www.goacta.org/audience/alumni/ ^
  23. “John W. Altman Is Elected Chairman of ACTA’s Board of Directors.” American Council of Trustees and Alumni. June 23, 2021. Accessed July 10, 2021. https://www.goacta.org/2021/06/john-w-altman-is-elected-chairman-of-actas-board-of-directors/ ^
  24. Emma, Caitlin. “SCOTUS considers student loan servicer case.” Politico. May 12, 2016. Accessed July 10, 2021. https://www.politico.com/tipsheets/morning-education/2016/05/scotus-considers-student-loan-servicer-case-career-colleges-accreditation-the-state-of-preschool-mental-health-on-the-hill-214263 ^
  25. “Michael B. Poliakoff.” American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Accessed July 10, 2021. https://www.goacta.org/staff/michael-b-poliakoff/ ^
  26. “Lauri Kempson.” American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Accessed July 10, 2021. https://www.goacta.org/staff/lauri-kempson/ ^
  See an error? Let us know!

Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: May 1, 1994

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2019 Dec Form 990 $3,448,595 $3,317,946 $6,601,004 $275,171 N $3,031,373 $11,148 $83,793 $0 PDF
    2018 Dec Form 990 $3,519,161 $3,249,055 $6,480,074 $339,638 N $3,177,408 $26,668 $52,871 $0 PDF
    2017 Dec Form 990 $2,875,757 $2,991,515 $6,394,031 $356,773 N $2,680,506 $53,167 $126,988 $0 PDF
    2016 Dec Form 990 $3,585,551 $2,286,885 $6,172,125 $276,007 N $3,495,275 $9,779 $40,063 $0
    2015 Dec Form 990 $4,008,483 $2,075,863 $4,811,543 $204,924 N $3,964,715 $13,940 $30,118 $539,173 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $2,810,186 $1,988,869 $2,769,974 $80,442 N $2,780,095 $14,475 $12,384 $428,546 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $2,085,541 $1,724,509 $1,985,044 $132,492 N $2,071,268 $12,989 $418 $410,404 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $2,012,654 $1,577,404 $1,670,846 $179,326 N $1,994,787 $16,576 $402 $393,170 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $1,596,155 $1,590,115 $1,338,695 $282,425 N $1,577,630 $16,421 $687 $379,172 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    American Council of Trustees and Alumni

    1730 M Street NW #600
    Washington, DC 20036-4557