It came in the mail yesterday. The fancy envelope. The glossy pictures. The heartbreaking tales. Yep, it was my Alma Mater’s Annual Fund notice. Not that the notices only come annually, mind you. I can look forward to receiving something from my college 5-10 times per year, in addition to the phone calls the poor work-study students are forced to make, telling you how great school is and begging you to send money.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my college. Going away to school was one of the best experiences of my life. And I definitely benefited from donations made to the school. During my 4 years as an undergrad, scholarships and fellowships paid for a good chunk of my schooling. My senior year I was also an R.A. (Resident Assistant), which offset the cost of room and board.
So you would think I’d be more than willing to pay back my good fortune. But even if I were wealthy, I don’t think I’d be sending money off to them. It’s not that I’m not grateful. It’s not that I don’t want to help other students who are in the same position as me. It’s that, like most colleges and universities, I feel that my school has lost its way.
I attended the small, private, Lutheran college from 1996-2000, graduating after 4 years with a B.A. in Graphic Design. If I remember correctly, tuition plus room and board ran me somewhere in the ballpark of $22,000 per year. It was pricey, and had I known I would be paying for my own schooling, I probably would have chosen differently. But that’s another story. Through hard work, good grades, and student loans, I managed to come up with the money.
In those days the school boasted 2,000 students, although we all laughed that they had to be inflating those numbers; no way were there that many students there! The campus was situated along one street that ran along the lake. All students were required to live in the dormitories, which included wings for sororities and fraternities. Most of the students came from surrounding cities, making campus like a ghost town on weekends and Holidays. Most of the buildings looked to be from the 1970’s, and while older, the school did it’s best to keep them from looking dated.
Since I graduated in 2000, the school has done extensive construction; Their website boasts $130 million in the last 10 years! There’s a new library, student union, arena, athletic center, and business center, new student apartments and a village of 6 new buildings that are like a cross between apartment living and dorms. They’ve also done extensive renovations to many of the other buildings and dormitories. The meal options now include things like Starbucks and Baja Fresh. The school has hosted events featuring John Mayer, Bob Dylan, Dave Matthews, The Script, The Fray, Phillip Phillips…
What the Hell?!?
Sure, it all sounds cool and inviting. And I understand colleges and universities have steep competition for students. But seriously? And it’s not like the school has grown by leaps and bounds; The website now states that there are 2,500 full-time students who attend the school.
And did I mention that in the 13 years since I’ve graduated, tuition has gone from ~$22,000 to almost $44,000?!? Per year! Are you kidding me?!?
In my opinion, the whole thing has just gotten out of hand. $44,000 for one year of undergraduate schooling? Granted, “99% of the students get financial aid”. Well, of course they do! Who can afford that out-of-pocket? A 4 year undergraduate degree would run you in the ballpark of $176,000 if you lived on campus. That doesn’t include books, or activities, or any other costs you might incur. You could save $9,500 per year by living off campus. Actually, not really, since you’d have to live somewhere, and eat something. When I graduated, it was becoming more and more common for students to take their time, and complete their 4 year program in 5 years instead. So those students would be looking at $220,000.
Is it worth it? In my opinion, no. Don’t get me wrong, college was a great experience. But does a small, Division III school really need a state-of-the-art arena and athletic center? Is it worth an extra $22,000 per year to see a couple of awesome concerts while you’re away at school? What does any of that have to do with learning, and getting a great education? The school churned out many successful business men and women without all the bells and whistles. Was any of that necessary? Aren’t we just encouraging young people to live above their means? Setting them up for a life they can’t possible sustain upon graduation?
So no, Mr. Class of 2000 Representative, I’m not sending a dime of my hard-earned money to my Alma Mater! Call me ungrateful, or out of touch with reality. But I can think of many more worthwhile causes for my money.
Do you donate towards your Alma Mater? How do you feel about the direction our colleges and universities are heading?
– Cindy W.