Senior Gift Shames Graduating Students into Donating Too Early

By Rosie Alger 
Opinion Editor

Every year, graduating seniors are pushed to donate back to the school before they even walk across the stage. The Senior Class Gift Committee is looking to get the highest percentage of participating seniors, so any small donation counts. They even put a link to the donation page at the end of the senior superlative survey. Why are they shaking us down for spare cash in the first place?

Graduating students are looking for their first post-graduate job or heading into graduate school. They are hoping to move out of their parents’ house, get their own apartment, and start their full adult lives. Many seniors are racked with student loans that they will have to start paying off and will consume the majority of their entry-level paychecks. The last thing they need is to think about donating to the school which they have not even left yet.

According to Washington College’s online page on the senior class gift, the fundraising initiative is designed to “begin the tradition of giving back to your soon-to-be alma mater.” In other words, this is your chance to begin a life long practice of donating to the College. It doesn’t matter much that you might not have extra money to be donating.

I understand that WC thrives on alumni donations, and that the alumni are a vital part of the school’s network of development and support for both financial efforts and for the students themselves. According to WC online, “Tuition covers only 55 percent of the College’s total operating costs. The remaining balance is largely covered by alumni donations.”

I have been very fortunate to receive help in my job search process from various alumni, and even have been awarded research grants that were set up by generous alumni looking to enrich students’ experiences, and I am very grateful for those experiences.

I am not saying that alumni donations are not important. I just think that the College should be looking to benefit from well-established, connected alumni who have a lot more to offer rather than berating nervous soon-to-be-graduates who are desperately trying to find a job. Personally, this kind of aggressive fundraising campaign strategy leaves the opposite of the desired impression on me; I am even less prone to want to give back in the future now that I see how ruthless the school’s attitude about giving can be.

Ultimately, having enough spare money to be able to donate to causes that are important to you is a privilege that not a lot of Americans have. It requires having savings beyond what you may need for health care, security, housing, even retirement. Fewer and fewer people have that kind of spare cash, and to assume that college seniors have the obligation to start a cycle of donating to their alma mater puts unnecessary and inconsiderate pressure on those just entering the workforce.

I know that if I am ever fortunate enough to be able to donate, I will be giving to charities doing work for the underprivileged in this world. We all have to pick and choose the causes we want to support, and being slated with the idea that it is my duty as a future alum to give to this institution does not make me want to spend my efforts here.

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