Suppose you hire a plumber to fix a leak. You pay him for his work and he leaves. A year later he calls back and asks if you would consider giving him additional money because you continue to get benefits from the repairs. In addition, he argues, you could help subsidize future customers that would otherwise not be able to pay for his services. Would that seem appropriate?

Now imagine he calls back every few months for the rest of your life, asking the same frickin' question every time. Would you be okay with that practice?

Private colleges do this sort of thing all the time and somehow it seems okay. It makes me wonder what-the-hell kind of brainwashing goes on in those institutions.

I have an internal conflict when my alma mater, Hartwick College, asks for money. On one hand I feel a strong, irrational impulse to give, just as they somehow programmed me to feel. On the other hand, my degree was in economics, so the rationally trained part of my brain says paying twice for a service that was rendered once is irrational. But I'm glad the school pumped out lots of psychology, nursing, and sociology majors to donate money and keep the college afloat. I'd hate to have an economics degree from a college that went out of business.
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Apr 12, 2009
I'm going to give you the secret that will make you thousands and thousands of dollars, Scott.

Are you ready to receive the wisdom?

Once every 3 months, ask your readers to donate money to you. Make it easy and painless to do so. Almost all of your readers will not donate. Voila!

Did you miss it? I said "almost" all will not donate. Meaning that some will.

This will add up, over the next few years, to thousands and thousands of free dollars. Why is that?

I have no idea, but bums figured this out years ago. No matter who you are, no matter how pathetic you look or for what reason you need the money ... if you ask a group of people for money, almost everyone will not give you any.

But some will!
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Mar 22, 2009
Lots of comments about "private universities". I went to a Public University. Yes, Virginia, public universities beg for money just as frequently, if not more, than the private ones.

My favorite tactic is the "For a donation, we will allow you to return to the university to speak with prospective students and tell them how we helped you get ahead in life!" Huh. Can't I do that for free?

I also like the "Help our <<Insert your department here>> stay ahead of the game! Donate now!" I barely cared about my department. Why would I care what the Animal Husbandry Department is doing?

The most genius marketing ploy I've seen yet is, "Join us for 'University Day' at the local Major League Baseball field! We will give you free tickets to the nosebleed section for a donation of only !$%*!$ I can get cheaper tickets on StubHub.com.

(Curiously, the donation is the same amount as the tickets, plus extra added for the priviledge of having attended their fine learning establishment.)

I think higher education is a fine thing, when taken in moderation. Oh, if your parents paid for your education, and you contributed ZERO to the effort, don't complain about being asked for a donation. Just fess up and give. Chances are your parents, or favorite Granny and Pop-Pop, paid a lot more in tuition, etc, than you will ever give through a $50 or $100 donation.

As for those of us who paid our own way, of which I am one, I say, "We already gave at the office."

I don't donate -- because I already have.

Mar 22, 2009
My daughter is now going to my Alma Mater - a private university. I am paying them a ridiculous amount of money for her education, and they have the nerve to call me and ask for a donation on top of the money I'm already paying. I had to tell the guy twice that I was already giving SMU all the money I could. He ignored me the first time. I thought I was going to have to hang up on him, and I probably should have, but he heard me the second time. I doubt I will ever give them money again.
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Mar 22, 2009
How my alma-mater works around is this: They contact alumni who are working for companies, which are big recruiters on campus, and ask them (the company) to pay a certain amount to enroll the company in a week-long placement process, and also charge them a certain amount for the number of students they pick up. The rates vary according to how soon they get to talk to the students as compared to the other companies competing for a position in this process.

Of course, the money collected more than covers for the costs of running this process, which then goes into a collected pool of funds. Everybody is happy: The alumni, since they didn't have to spend the money out of their own pockets, and charged it to their companies, and my college who gets the money in the end.

Similarly, when we organise on-campus events, we follow a similar model for sponsorships. Ditto for consulting assignments with the companies, and executive training programmes.

The point here is that my college seems to have figured out that alumni are more willing to pay for a service rendered, (or rather make their companies pay) than just pay for emotional reasons.
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Mar 21, 2009
My post was edited by the overly aggressive bad language filter - "!$%*!$%*! " should be e-n-t-i-t-y.
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Mar 21, 2009
I have mixed feelings about donating to my Alma Mater. An incident shortly after I stopped being a student pushes me to not giving.
I was a non-resident student (10% tuition) at the end and then stopped [I've got a 90% finished PhD thesis - it was a complicated situation.] When I stopped being a student, the registrar (in their infinite wisdom) decided to make me a full time student instead of dis-enrolling me. I didn't find out about this until the end of the semester when I got a past due notice for the full tuition. The bursar wouldn't change it without notice from the registrar and the registrar said it was past the deadline - even though it was their mistake and I had never been notified. Everyone in the administration told me that someone else had to make the change. While I was still bouncing from administrator to administrator, I get the nasty-gram informing me that my account was being turned over to collections...........the next day I get a request for a donation from the Alumni Association filled with glowing verbiage about the wonderful times I had.

[I ended the problem by going high up in the administration and telling my story - a week later I got a bursar statement with a zero balance due. No explanation...no apology...nothing].

[I do donate to the campus radio station directly during the public fund raising drive and occasionally another student group, but not through the College.]

I still get newsletters and occasional requests to join the Alumni Association, but the calls stopped a long time ago. I told them that I would consider donating when I got an apology and explanation from the people who messed up my accounts. [I'm not rich enough for the Development Office to court me for a big donation.]

As for the value of the education - it was great. Yes, it was a top school for my field, but the real education was the "That which does not kill us makes us stronger" type. [very long story - all the problems and battles changed my life, taught me skills you don't normally learn in college, and lead me to different disciplines and interests.]

DMH said: "...I moved about once a year as I found my career grove. Total of five moves. Usually within a month of each move I would somehow get a donation letter in the mail."

When a mailing goes out, the sender can request forwarding OR that the letter be sent back with the forwarding address. If you gave a forwarding address to the Post Office, then the letters went back to the University with a yellow sticker containing your new address.


jzlondon declared: "Universities are not businesses. "
Obviously, jzlondon has never dealt with the workings of the administration of a University. They are businesses (usually non-profit !$%*!$%*! and the internal workings are the same as any large business - just a different product (processing students) and a different image promoted by the publicity department.

Mar 20, 2009
I absolutely LOATHE when my alma maters beg for money... high school, undergrad and law school: they all do it! BAH!! My parents and I gave them enough money while I was there. STOP ASKING ME FOR MORE!
Mar 20, 2009
One flaw in the analysis is that your tuition did not fully cover the cost of your education. It was subsidized by the University's endowment. And that endowment is funded by donations from alumni.

Current students are charged some fraction of the actual cost, with the remainder paid by former students who benefited in the past. Theoretically a poor person could go for very little money, and then if they earn a good income later, they could pay at that time.

Different schools have different models, and there are plenty of government policies that distort the economics and pricing, so YMMV.
Mar 20, 2009
I'm with noldrin on this. My undergrad school has spent the last 15 years chipping away at what makes the school great, mostly by treating the undergrads like helpless children. They will never see a dime of my money.

While I was there, I lived off-campus in a place run by a charitable organization set up to help students with financial need. Living there easily saved me $15-20k in room and board so I happily donate to them every year.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 20, 2009
I don't know the situation at your country. But I did my engineering from government engineering college in India. My State government spends Rs 450,000 per student to help him become an engineer. This includes the amount spent on salary for professors, lab setups, etc. And the amount I paid in tuition fees was below 20,000 Rs. Not even 5% of what the government invested on me. Of course if I get a job in my country and stay in there, they will get multitude of what they paid in taxes as well as services I produce. But my government never restricts me to do a job in my country only or anything like that. So, if my institution asks for a help from me, I will never hesitate to do that, because I am sure that it is going to help the future engineers of my country.
Mar 19, 2009
If somebody asks for money in a certain tone, I think my mind fills in the blanks. If a pizza store called me and said, "You've eaten our pizza once a week for four years. Isn't it time you gave a little something back?" I think I'd have just as strong an impulse to donate, because a sense of obligation comes naturally.

I restrain myself by remembering that colleges are nigh-obsolete thanks to IT, so mine would be a bad choice as charities go.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 19, 2009
My resolution to this problem? Now I work for them. Donating would be like saying I can afford a pay cut, so I don't, and they don't bother me much. I toss the mailings, except for my alumni association membership. And I only have a cell phone, no land line, which eliminates solicitations.
Mar 19, 2009
Your major was economics? No offense, but that's the most shocking thing you've ever written here. I'd love to read a short blurb on your theories of what makes a successful economy. That would be both entertaining and stupifying.

My alma mater is a school that is run by the federal government. Whenever they ask for money, I just tell them to talk to my Uncle Sam, who should just print all the money they need. I tell them I give to them each year when I pay my taxes, and if they can get my taxes reduced, I'll give them one dollar for every two they get me. So far, it may come as a surprise to you, I haven't had to give them any money.
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 19, 2009
I thought you were going to be talking about something else.. I see a similar argument on Slashdot all the time: "If a plumber comes and does some work for me, I pay him. Then he goes home, and if he wants to earn more money, he needs to do more work. So why, then, if a musician produces an album (or a cartoonist produces a book..), does he expect to get paid over and over again for the same work for the rest of his life?"
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 19, 2009
Of course you can always follow my advice and tell them to fsck off and take you off their lists.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 19, 2009
The "value" of what school you got your degree from is entirely questionable and highly overrated IMO. How many "Harvard MBAs" are responsible for the economic disaster we find ourselves sinking deeper into every day???

How many Yale graduates become POTUS or Senators even though they're complete boobs?

Just because you put "Indian Institution of Technology" on your resume doesn't mean you actually know how to do what you're applying to do.

How many awesome candidates for a job are looked over because their degree is from University of Phoenix or god-forbid an Online school?

Thinking that 20-year-old diploma from the now-ranked-number-1 school is worth more, or the person with it more capable is just plain stupid thinking.
Mar 19, 2009
I was just skimming a magazine with a "best colleges of..." section, and one of the criteria listed is alumni giving rate. I had no idea that was even an important criteria for college choice.
If I were applying to college, would I care what the alumni giving rate was? If it's not listed, definitely not.
If it's listed, would I want a high rate or a low rate? Instinctively, (possibly due to brainwashing), the higher rate would seem more appealing, as the alumni apparently think so highly of their education that they want to continue paying for it. On the other hand, the lower rate might simply correlate with the fact that the college doesn't pester you as much once you do graduate.

Obviously, mass pestering gets more people to donate, which is why they do it. Imagine if the plumber was almost positive that all your plumbing problems are solved for life, so if he doesn't pester you and try to guilt you into giving him money, he wouldn't get another dime from you. On the other hand, it's positive expected value for him to guilt all his former customers into giving him money. Now, imagine all the other plumbers did the same--now nobody's losing new customers due to a bad reputation for inducing guilt trips since everybody does it.

Now that everybody does it, all the customers are 'used to' the business model because those that know about it know that everybody does it and they can't avoid it..
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 19, 2009
A note on this: college rankings are affected by the percentage of alumni that donate.

So I see donating a small amount every year as a way to boost my school's rankings, thus increasing the present day value of my degree (higher rankings yield higher degree value, even though I got my degree in 2004 this value will continue to accumulate.)
Mar 19, 2009
Not just private colleges-- I went to the University of Wisconsin and their methods are the same. I also paid for a "life" membership in the alumni association, but they keep asking for money also.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 19, 2009
Does the pluming job last forever? Do you stay in the same house forever? Does the plumbing job enrich your life and open up new career opportunities for you?

If not, you should probably have saved that money for college.
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