With graduation just months away, some fourth-years are questioning why, after spending thousands upon thousands of dollars to attend the U of C, they would voluntarily give the University any more money. That is the hurdle that the members of the Senior Class Gift Committee, the group of student leaders charged with drumming up financial support for alumni donations by the graduating class, face heading into the last months of their fundraising season.
Anna Snoeyenbos, a fourth- year in the college and co-chair of the Senior Class Gift Committee, believes that amid the excitement of graduation, many students forget about senior gift and other alumni donations. She hopes to inspire giving by reminding students that some donations enable students to study abroad, win grant money for internships, and receive financial aid, she said.
“The cost of tuition doesn’t nearly cover the cost of running the College, and regardless of whether we receive financial aid or not…actual tuition is subsidized by alumni giving,” Snoeyenbos said. “We all know that when we leave, our degree will really mean something because of the amazing quality of the education here. But that does cost money to maintain.”
One of the goals of the Committee, which hosted a bowling party for fourth-years last Thursday at Seven-Ten Lanes to kick off its fundraising efforts, is to make seniors aware of the impact the gift has on student life, she said.
Money collected for the senior gift will go directly into the College Fund, which appropriates alumni money to a variety of student support programs. Senior classes in the past have donated money to purchase or repair an actual campus feature, like the “C” Bench, which was bought by the class of 1903, or the Gothic-style swing in the social science quad, which was paid for by the class of 1997. In 2002, several alumni donors prompted the Committee to donate the senior gift money to the College Fund. The alumni pledged money to the fund based on senior participation in the gift, according to Adam Niermann, the assistant director of young alumni giving.
However, fourth-year Max Gallop says he does not intend to donate to the fund.
“I’ll probably give the University money when I have a job and am actually making money,” he said. “I think this would have more utility than me giving money as a poor college student….That, in the long run, won’t affect anything.”
But fourth-year Luke Goetzke, who has already donated to the senior gift, says that he enjoys walking around campus and seeing what past classes have donated.
“I feel like it would enhance our sense of tradition. It’s a unifying thing,” he added. Goetzke added that he would like to picture students “sitting on the good ol’ comfy 2008 bench for years to come.”
Alumnus John Fyfe (AB ‘68) has offered to donate $25,000 to the College Fund if the senior gift reaches at least 55 percent participation. In addition, University Trustee James Crown will pledge $4,000 for each percentage point increase in the percent of class participation over last year’s class.
Though many fourth-years voice concerns similar to those of Gallop, the Committee has seen a remarkable increase in participation over the past five years, according to University statistics. 52 percent of seniors in the class of 2002 made donations, while 71 percent participated from the class of 2007. This year, Snoeyenbos said the Committee is encouraging students to donate $20.08 and hopes to reach
80 percent participation.
Snoeyenbos speculated that the recent rise in participation may have come about because of the decision to shift away from donating structural objects, which she says often go unnoticed.
“Usually students can pin-point two main gifts in the past, the clock in front of the Reg that never gives the right time, and the swing, which I heard broke. But those are two gifts out of how many years of giving? They seem like a waste of money to me,” she said.
“You know, we have enough benches, we have enough clocks, and they’re nice, but they don’t really support students directly,” Niermann said. “We think the greatest need of the University is supporting students, and we thought that money would best go to that.”
As of January 9, 37 seniors had donated to the senior class gift—roughly three percent of the class of 2008. That was before Thursday’s fundraising event, and according to Niermann, the Committee is planning several promotional events for the winter and spring, and will be giving out coupons for free bagels and coffee on February 11.