Donating Money to Your College: Do You?

by TTMK on December 24, 2012 · 16 comments

Every so often, I’ll get some email – and regular mail – from my college.  Actually, I have been contacted regarding both my undergraduate and Giving to Your Schoolgraduate schools.  Generally, these are updates on what’s new there, or things of that nature.   This can be interesting sometimes.

Many times, however, the thoughts one might get when getting such mail might center around one inevitable conclusion: should I give money to my college?

I have to say, I had some great experience in both by undergrad and graduate programs.  Some great times and resulting friendships of course are great to have.  Beyond that, let’s get to the other obvious benefit: the actual education itself!  The specifics learned in class and homework are one thing, but the comprehensive education, perspective, and interpersonal skills that education gives can truly help set us on a good path.  Much can be written on this, which I might do in future posts.

So yes, I greatly value education and am very thankful for it.

Does this mean I should give money to my school?

The best way I can answer this, based on the conclusion I have come to, is that I can give to my school in other ways.  I definitely speak well of it, am often more than willing to help via networking with graduates, follow the sports teams with great passion and spirit, and perhaps occasionally spend money on school-related gear.  I’m a fan.

In terms of direct contributions, however, I feel like it’s not in the cards right now.  There are other things that demand my money these days, including caring for family and saving for retirement.  A lot of tuition was paid in the past, so I don’t feel like I’m required to regularly donate anything directly to the school.

Generosity is a really good thing, in my view.  But not being eager to donate to your old school is not stingy, and doesn’t indicate a lack of generosity.

Besides, there are other people or entities that I would rather give to anyway.  This came to mind just the other day, when I got a random email clear out of the blue from someone I knew from my undergrad fraternity.  I haven’t spoken to this person in well over a decade for sure, and the same holds true for the 30 or so other people he also included in the email. Bottom line here is that he notified folks about another old fraternity brother having cancer, along with a suggestion that we buy Christmas gifts for the guy’s family.

I naturally thought this was very cool for him to do, and quickly ordered a gift to be sent to the old schoolmate’s family.  Haven’t seen that guy in over 10 years as well, but it felt like the right thing to do.

To me, this is what I would rather do – give to someone I went to school with, who is in a tough place.  Or, more generally, to a person or cause that I think truly needs help and where I choose to give.

To the school itself? Well, I am thankful for the experience, and they already got tens of thousands of dollars in the form of tuition!

My Questions for You

Do you give to your college, or any previous school for that matter?

How do you compare giving to a school to giving to other people or causes?


{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily @ evolvingPF December 24, 2012 at 11:16 am

We have given a little money to our college in the past, but it it’s a drop in the budget of our other giving. I do want to give to our college occasionally as it is tiny and really needs the money, but we’ll probably never give to our (R1) grad school as it’s enormous and they court multimillion dollar donors, not shrimps like us. I do “donate my time” to my college – I serve as an alumni interviewer and have represented them at a few college fairs.


TTMK December 26, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Emily – that’s cool, that you’re differentiating based on need. Makes sense. My school is probably getting the big benefits from bigger donors anyway.


Hank December 24, 2012 at 1:23 pm

I give to my undergraduate college regularly every month. I enjoy giving to the college as much as giving to other charities. I look at it like giving back to the next generation of graduates from the school because they use the money for scholarships. I also know how much the school depends on donations and its endowment for its annual operating budget. I view giving money to the college as also a way to protect the value of my diploma. A diploma is like a share of stock that can increase or decrease in value based not on the cost of a college but its reputation. One way to keep its value is to give back in time, money, and effort to your alma mater.


TTMK December 26, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Hank – that’s a good point about the value of the diploma. From that point of view, it does help to offer some resources back. For me, that represents time and perhaps money indirectly, rather than donations directly. But whatever works for each of us is all good, and that’s cool that you enjoy giving to the school. For me, it’s more about thinking about where my kids will be going to school, and where some of my money will be going in the future 🙂


AverageJoe December 24, 2012 at 2:27 pm

While I love my colleges and want to see them succeed, I give them nothing. As a rule, I think university spending is out of hand, and until we tighten their belts a little, we’ll continue to see costs skyrocket as university officials spend tons of money on tons of projects.


TTMK December 26, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Average Joe – I’m a huge proponent of college being expected out of most people, but I wonder when these costs will go past a tipping point, and people will truly be utilizing online/streamed/downloadable learning. I would have never in a million years thought I would say that even a year ago, but you never know.


Goldeneer December 27, 2012 at 11:00 am

I can see the pros and cons of donating to my college. In one instance, the better reputation my program gets due to alumni support, the better my degree will reflect on my resume. As for a con, going to college is a luxury that most people can borrow or work part time in order to attend. I see too many college students walking around campus in expensive clothing, eating out most days or driving nice cars. They don’t need my money.
Donating to third world communities and other organizations that have a true need will make my dollars stretch further.


TTMK December 29, 2012 at 11:04 am

Goldeneer – great observation, that donating to people in need will make those dollars stretch further.


The College Investor December 28, 2012 at 11:28 am

I’ve never given to my college, but I know I should. Many colleges are ranked on the percentage of alumni who give – even if they give just $1. That’s why colleges encourage alumni to donate, because it will help with their rankings on reports like World News and such.


TTMK December 29, 2012 at 11:04 am

The College Investor – Well, maybe I can splurge for a dollar, and still help 🙂


Well Heeled Blog December 31, 2012 at 4:13 pm

If you can’t donate much, even $1 a year will help. Seriously! By donating that $1, you’ll be donated in the percentage of alumni who give, which is a big factor in determining school rankings. Furthermore, many schools have wealthy alumni who provide matching challenges where they will match 50 cents or $1 to your donation, so that means by giving $1, you’ll help the school get $1.50 or $2.


TTMK January 2, 2013 at 8:29 am

Well Heeled – Good points, that % may help the schools. It seems like a nice way that one could help out without breaking the bank.


Ted Jenkin @ Your Smart Money Moves January 3, 2013 at 9:04 am

I never thought I would say this, but I’m really sick and tired of my college calling me. Part of the fun of giving and being charitable is to be able to give from your heart. Or, when the kids knock on your door you get that satisfaction of helping a youngster in the neighborhood knowing that your kids are going to need some of that reciprocal help from your neighbors at some other time. We’ve all bought candy bars, decals, or something we really didn’t need to help out kids in the community.

Our colleges should know better. At a time when people are down and out hurting in this economy, they should be spending $100 million of these endowments to help many more kids get an education or cutting the cost of education while instead they are doing exactly the opposite.


TTMK January 3, 2013 at 7:55 pm

Ted – I can understand your viewpoint, there are probably some schools that overdo it. Also, if a good percentage of its recent graduates are looking for work, they can’t be expected to donate.


Anne @ Unique Gifter February 1, 2013 at 8:38 am

I am a huge fan of donating to my alma maters! Funding works a bit differently here in Canada, though. I also give to things that are school related but not the actual school. For example, I recently started sending a gift basket to the house that I used to live in as a random act of kindness. The intention is that it becomes a snowball and the house gets random mail and gifts from previous tenants. The first recipients were ecstatic!


Richard February 1, 2013 at 11:57 am

1. Ask yourself, why are operating budgets so large to begin with? It’s because University President compensation is correlated and causally related to the size of their operating budget. That is why there is an arms race in terms of new facilities, etc.
2. If I didn’t benefit from a scholarship and paid full freight, I feel no obligation to give back.
3. Look at the size of the endowment. Most of the prestigious school endowments are so large they could use the money to reduce tuition but they don’t.
4. You are probably doing more good by donating to your local public school.


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