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Has anyone ever donated to their alma mater?

(53 Posts)
Tasmania Thu 21-Feb-13 16:15:46

Just that, really.

I see a lot of threads that complain of the lack of bursaries available at independent schools or even the high fees now charged by universities. Or people complain about the lack of facilities at state schools... all the while, never thinking about parting with their own money.

In the U.S., schools like Phillips Exeter Academy can make offers needs-blind due to their huge endowments that has been accumulated over (presumably) centuries. If the family of an accepted candidate has an income of less than $75k a year, then that child's education will be free. They offer aid for families all the way up to those with a family income of $200k a year.

Same thing goes for Harvard. Yes, outside of the U.S., we think it's an elitist uni where only the rich can go, but if you are good enough to get in, your family does not pay tuition unless they earn more than $150k a year. And even above that, your parents may pay only 10% of their annual salary, which makes it a much cheaper option than British universities.

Again, the above can be done partly due to endowment funds that are frequently 'stocked up' by alumnis. If we ever want the same system, I think all of us should donate to our alma mater now.

Goes off to alma mater's website to donate a small amount.

breatheslowly Thu 21-Feb-13 23:07:57

I am under the impression that taxes are lower in the US with some sort of expectation that charitable giving is a substitute. Also the tax benefits of charitable donations are higher there. I don't know it this is based on fact or just my misunderstanding. There is also a tendency to admit the children of alumni called legacy preference which probably happens here a little, but not at all to the same extent as in the US. If it was the cultural norm in the UK to donate to your old university in return for preferential treatment of your children then donations would be higher.

Tasmania Thu 21-Feb-13 23:28:09

True, breatheslowly.

Also, graduates there do earn more money... and at the same time, expenditure (e.g. housing) is a lot less.

SavoirFaire Thu 21-Feb-13 23:31:09

Never read that about legacy preference breatheslowly. V interesting. I believe the law prevents that in the UK. No idea whether that's watertight or not though.

Tasmania take your point about what careers post degrees, however my understanding is that even relatively 'lowly' state colleges attract significant donations from their alumni, in comparison with the UK (although much lower than ivy league). Average across US unis seems to be around 10%, ie the same as the highest in the UK.

SavoirFaire Thu 21-Feb-13 23:33:03

*about careers post degrees

excuse erroneous 'what'

MoreBeta Thu 21-Feb-13 23:34:37

I did donate to my college at university. Then they did something that I still feel very upset about 20 years later and I never donated again.

piprabbit Thu 21-Feb-13 23:38:03

Once a year, a lovely student from my old Uni phones me up for a nice chat and to ask me for money. I used to give while I was working, but can't at the moment as I have zero income, which tends to make the lovely student go a bit quiet.

Tasmania Thu 21-Feb-13 23:38:59


That probably filters down though from the top to the bottom. So, if Princeton gets 62%, then it goes all the way down to 10%. If the highest here in the UK get 10%, then it's not surprising that some get hardly anything...

Basically, if it is seen as 'normal' to donate, then people would. But as you can probably see, many here wouldn't even consider. It could really be about the fact that, in general, cost of living and taxes are is low, so for those who went to uni, and earn a decent living, there may be more disposable income. Here in the UK, cost of living is freakin' high - with graduate wages not really matching it at all. Families where both parents went to uni often struggle to have a few hundred pounds left over in the month, with many just about making it.

SavoirFaire Thu 21-Feb-13 23:48:02

Oh yes I agree Tasmania. I'm just highlighting the difference between the US and the UK and that, IMO, it is cultural. i.e. the culture is that it is 'normal' to donate. I'm not sure it is to do with cost of living tbh. Many of those who give in the US will give $10 or $15/month, so for most middle class families that's very affordable. I guess people in the UK generally just don't think about doing that. I did for quite a while. And then I stopped when I had children - my priorities changed and right now I have no disposable income after childcare anyway. I'd like to put some money towards in again in the future, largely because I think there's amazing research going on which is under resourced (I have friends who work in medical research at my alma mater as it happens and I know that they struggle to get the funding that they need) and I'd love to help support.

Tasmania Fri 22-Feb-13 00:10:18

Hmmm... it would be good to change the mentality in the UK.

I have now asked DH, and he said that because HE was free for such a long time in the UK, and fees only came into play in the past decade (and a bit), people do take it for granted, thinking it's a service the state will always pay for, so why bother. Whereas in the U.S., people tend to know it wouldn't work without the massive donations.

Also - the U.S. isn't really a "welfare state" like the UK, so if a little bit of education goes a long way, it isn't hard to see what would have happened if you had never had that opportunity. You feel lucky for what you have. Sometimes, a welfare state can make people a lot more selfish - if you see people around you living reasonably well, what's there to feel lucky for in your life? I know that's a very un-PC way of thinking, but brush all the political correctness aside, and that's how people really think.

malinois Fri 22-Feb-13 12:00:59

Tasmania It's cultural mainly I think. Even final year undergraduates (seniors) are expected to donate to the college (Senior Giving). You've got to remember that the Ivy League has the same function among the US elites as senior public schools do in the UK - albeit far more accessibly to ordinary people.

The friendships, contacts and society memberships (Sonorities,Fraternities and Honor Societies) that US undergrads are involved with define them for life in a way that is simply unfathomable to a non-American. It's completely cross-generational too.

None of the above applies to graduate students of course (who are not permitted to join the greek societies in any case) so I was just an interested observer smile

grovel Fri 22-Feb-13 15:28:41

My, unscientific, observation is that Americans are generally more hostile to tax than we are but are more generous in terms of philanthropy. We correspondingly expect more from government and they are more ready to fund things as individuals.

creamteas Fri 22-Feb-13 15:30:45

Education in the UK was free under the welfare state, so people didn't used to need to donate as they were paying via their taxes (according to their means).

In in two minds about encouraging donations now. On the one hand, universities and students desperately need the money. But on the other hand, there is a very real chance that this will lead to even less state support in future.

This thread reminds me of an old T shirt slogan when I was an u/g:

'Why can't schools and hospitals be funded and the Army run jumble sales for missiles instead'

TunipTheVegedude Fri 22-Feb-13 15:36:41

I have.
But only one of my old colleges. The other has gold leaf on the drainpipes and an extensive wine cellar so I'll leave it to them to scrape together some cash for scholarships.

Astelia Fri 22-Feb-13 15:51:34

I think that colleges in the US make much more of a fuss of their alumni than universities in the UK do of theirs- in the UK you might be invited back say 10 years after graduating, then after 20 and so on. In the US lots of colleges have homecoming every year, where everyone is invited to a weekend of partying, sports matches, formal meals and parades.

I suspect this goes a long way to making the alumni feel valued by the college, and encourages their generosity.

breatheslowly Fri 22-Feb-13 18:37:02

Astelia - Cambridge has an alumni weekend and both the university and the colleges have other events through the year. I have no idea whether attendance at these events is higher or lower than the US equivalents, but they do happen.

motherinferior Fri 22-Feb-13 18:44:29

My Oxford college has stopped phoning me since the time I urged the nice young woman phoning me to go off and get politically active and not waste her precious youth volunteering in behalf of an institution which is not short of a bob or two.

TunipTheVegedude Fri 22-Feb-13 19:22:00

Volunteering? Surely not?
I understood they were paid, and as it's work they can fit around their studies it seems perfectly sensible. They tend to be the ones who need the money so they can make a pretty good case for why some students really benefit.

SavoirFaire Fri 22-Feb-13 20:43:37

Oxbridge callers are definitely paid, or at a minimum will get free accommodation during the holidays. The brief they get isn't all about making money though (my cousin did it over the summer for an Oxford college and we talked about it quite a bit). They are genuinely keen to stay in contact with people. You might not give a penny, but be able to turn up and talk to students about how to get a job as a pig farmer (or whatever glamorous job you do...), encourage your employer to sponsor an event, encourage your own child or others to apply there, and maybe maybe leave them a hundred quid in your will. Fundraising is obviously a key part and I understand they're pretty successful, which is why so many unis now do it, but don't think they won't be interested in what you're up to if you don't have any money or have no inclination to give.

Patrickroy Fri 22-Feb-13 20:53:19

No - I went to an oxford college and really, no. I work in a not particularly well paid job and have an amount I give to charities each year - I think colleges who have more land than sense and whose students have already won the lottery by going there really do not need my help. I would rather give my money to cancer research.

SavoirFaire Fri 22-Feb-13 21:09:13

Cancer research work is mostly done in universities Patrickroy. Perhaps you could give to the university, rather than your college, to support that?

Sorry, just being devil's advocate. It's Friday night!

Matsikula Fri 22-Feb-13 21:10:50

I gave my lovely student some career advice (or perhaps she was just pretending to be interested). My college is loaded, but it gives to less well provided for colleges in the university as well.

Someone asked about why the dark nights of the soul about my private school - it was just a non-confrontational way of saying that instinctively I don't really agree with private education, but I do agonise about it.

It's interesting the difference between donating to schools and donating to universities. Universities are genuinely competitive because any teenager can go there if they make the cut. But you can't really apply the same ruthless criteria to children, who all develop at different rates. That means that there is an under supply of elite school places compared to the number of children who might deserve them (as well as unequal geographical distribution). So the fact that Phillips Exeter Academy is 'needs blind' doesn't really make it properly egalitarian.

They do have a different approach in the states - I think it is also because they wear their educational achievements with pride, whereas I wouldn't be seen dead in a college sweatshirt. I also think fees are making things change here. I want people to have the experience I had without having to be born with a silver spoon in their mouth or getting ridiculously in debt.

TunipTheVegedude Fri 22-Feb-13 21:18:29

Patrick has a good point though. You look at any institution to which you are thinking about donating and say 'Are they going to spend the money well?' Some universities/colleges, the answer is probably not, judging by what they do with the money they already have.

Patrickroy Fri 22-Feb-13 22:27:09

I worked for the university for 7 years after I graduated too, for the centre in a role where I could see a lot of waste. Oxford has lots of partnerships with cancer research uk and they do vital research, you are right - but I'd still donate via cruk. They're probably as bad but I haven't been witness to it. in general, i prefer to donate to local hospices and causes etc than national charities with associated admin.
Anyway, with oxford certainly, it's your college that harasses you and it's mainly for their students and I do stand by the fact that by virtue of being at oxford in the first place the student has already been exceptionally fortunate. They are unlikely to end up unemployable and under an arch. I just think there are better causes. But each to their own.

SavoirFaire Fri 22-Feb-13 22:34:49

Totally take your point patrick. I don't know which of these bodies are more efficient in how they spend their money (I think charities have to publish that data do they?) although my possibly inaccurate guess would be that you're cutting out a middle man by giving to the centre rather than CRUK so possibly some admin saving. Don't know though. On scholarships though, I suppose the point of helping fund scholarships is that you give an opportunity to people who otherwise wouldn't get it (i.e. couldn't afford to go to that university without it) rather than giving to people who are already have the massive privilege of studying at that uni.

Patrickroy Fri 22-Feb-13 22:55:23

I think oxford now has one of the most generous bursary systems going for less well off students (because of some wealthy Americans - and I realise this somewhat defeats my point). So the poor are ok, the rich are ok as mama and papa pay but the middle end up with £50k of post uni debt. Maybe if I had enough I could set up a "the squeezed middle scholarship".
Despite all this though I still think that someone with 50k debt from oxford is in a better position that someone with £50k debt from almost any other university. And - to dragon's den it - for this reason, I'm out.

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