March 4, 2008

Editorial: Someone’s got to give

A wave of donations has hit the University of Chicago, pushing the U of C to 12th in total fundraising, according to the Council for Aid to Education’s 2007 rankings. Students, alumni and the University have already benefited from the generous giving, highlighted by the $2-billion Chicago Initiative, last year’s $100-million donation to create “Odyssey Scholarships,” and the $35-million naming gift for the new Logan Arts Center.

The U of C depends on alumni giving to fortify its endowment and fund new projects, and the contributions from philanthropic alumni should be applauded. These gifts enable the University to increase financial aid, attract and retain faculty, and improve facilities. Furthermore, increased rates and sums of alumni giving serve to elevate the University’s profile and boost the value of a U of C degree.

The recent spike in giving is especially impressive given the U of C’s historical challenges. With no pre-professional schools, a relatively small college, a lack of D-I sports teams to rally behind, and little emphasis on alumni relations, former students have not proven eager to give to their alma mater. It is impossible to pinpoint any one factor to explain the increased giving, but the University should be commended for its concerted effort to recruit alumni donations. Persistent efforts to encourage current students to give have helped increase the number of fourth-years participating in the senior class gift steadily from 52 percent in 2002 to 71 percent in 2007.

Despite the positive news, there is still room for improvement. While some wealthy alumni seem eager to give, the feeling is apparently not widespread: According to the 2007 U.S. News and World Report rankings, only 33 percent of all alumni gave back, placing the U of C behind many of its peer institutions.

The University should be doing more to ensure that all alumni consider giving back. Hyde Park still lacks many basic retail options, and finding adequate funding for RSOs is a constant difficulty. Another obvious step for the University would be extending its generous aid package for incoming graduate students to cover all current graduate students. Further work in these areas could help ensure that all students have fond memories of the U of C. Giving, after all, is a two-way street.

The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.