College Grads Prefer Charities Over Alma Mater Donations

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

A new study suggests that college graduates would rather pay back their student loans or donate to a local charity rather than giving money to their alma mater.

Performed by Cygnus Applied Research, the study found close to half of participating alumni who have not donated to their alma mater in the past believe the school does not need their support as much as a charity does.

“There is the perception that colleges and universities are flush with money and because of tuition, and in some cases state support, they don’t need it as much as other nonprofits,” said Shaun Keister, vice chancellor for development and alumni relations at the University of California at Davis, where only 6 to 7 percent of alumni give each year. “For my own institution, this would be the No. 1 reason why alumni don’t give.”

Study author Penelope Burk states that colleges need to reinforce the idea to alumni that such things as tuition freezes or a decline in state support could cause schools to seek revenue from other avenues.  Burk suggests that in order to accomplish this, schools should avoid looking for unrestricted gifts.

Results show 36% of alumni donors said the most recent gift they have made to their alma mater was unrestricted.  In addition, around 26% said they would be willing to donate more if they were able to allocate the money to a specific program or project, writes Jason Russell for The Washington Examiner.

Additional survey results show that graduates who had been involved in campus life outside of academics, such as sports teams or clubs, were more likely to donate.  Of this group, 68% reported making a donation.

Donors who held degrees from a number of institutions typically donated to all colleges they had attended, but 62% said they were more generous with the college they earned their undergraduate degree from.

A separate study performed by American Student Assistance found that recent college graduates hold more student loan debt than their parents.  That debt plays a large role in their willingness to donate to their alma mater.

Only 20% of those surveyed who did donate to their alma mater said this was the largest charitable donation they made.  An additional 31% said the gift made to their college was in the bottom third of their charitable donations.

An annual survey completed by the Council for Aid to Education states found 8.4% of alumni across the nation gave in 2015, compared to 8.6% in 2014.  Results went on to show an increase in charitable contributions to colleges by 7.6% in 2015, reaching a record high of $40.3 billion.

However, less than 1% of all colleges made up 28.7% of that amount.  Eight gifts totaling $100 million or more were reported.

At the same time, alumni gifts increased 10.2% in 2015, causing the total to reach $10.85 billion, or 26.9% of the total raised.  Data from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education found the average size of alumni gifts to have increased between 2004 and 2013, going from $919 to $1,429.

In all, over 21,000 donors participated in the study.  Included in this number are more than 6,200 college graduates who said that while they do donate to charities, they do not donate to the institution they had enrolled in.