19 Replies Latest reply on Sep 4, 2014 12:17 PM by JerryD

    Ever Consider Gift to the Alma Mater?

    JerryD

      For a  number of years I have done some unofficial polling of friends about their intentions to give back to the small technical university that educated us. I have been quite disappointed in the responses. I have been given excuses related to the need to educate the grandkids, I paid for my education why do I need to give back, I went to a school better than my undergraduate school, my kid's spouse teaches at a much better school, my kids got free rides elsewhere, etc.

       

      These deflections make me feel bad for that school that let many of us in even though we probably had lesser credentials than many that they accepted. I feel that it is our duty to pay it forward so that other kids from our less than prosperous area can have a chance at the better things that a good education can give. The education was good, even excellent in some areas. I feel that it is the root cause for our general success and that of our families that benefited from our educational background.

       

      We have included the biggest charitable gift in our estate to the small STEM school that I attended. If I had gone to a large or top tier university, I might be less generous, but I feel that this school deserves my and my friends' appreciation for taking us in and improving our lives.

       

      What do you think?

        • Re: Ever Consider Gift to the Alma Mater?
          MyR Community Manager

          JerryD, this is a great topic. Thanks for starting the thread. I enjoyed reading your thoughts about contributing to your alma mater and I'd love to hear others' perspectives, as well!

          • Re: Ever Consider Gift to the Alma Mater?
            BoBraxton

            I really like your way of thinking. I concur.

              • Re: Ever Consider Gift to the Alma Mater?
                BoBraxton

                Personally we give annually to many schools - since 1966 graduation, since 1970 graduation, since 1979 graduation, since 1993 graduation by offspring, since the offspring 1989 high school graduation. The gifts are not a huge amount but I like the steady and sure way of giving. I also appreciate that one - shows the number of consecutive years of giving. Participation is important - perhaps as much as amount of annual gift(s)/donations.

              • Re: Ever Consider Gift to the Alma Mater?
                TripleStep

                JerryD, I think that you have picked up on two great reasons for charitable giving. Donating to the alma mater does “pay it forward” so that the school can help the next generation(s); it also tangibly expresses our gratitude for the school’s part in the successes in our lives.  I regularly donate to my schools for both those reasons. Now, I’m discussing donating to my alma mater from required minimum distributions (RMDs) that would go unused otherwise.  As I understand it so far, direct gifts to a qualified charity can avoid having the RMDs count as taxable income. I don’t have direct experience with large schools, but they probably allow gifts to be directed to specific areas that directly affected their alums.

                • Re: Ever Consider Gift to the Alma Mater?
                  RobinH

                  I'm somewhat conflicted by this one.  In fact, I do give a smallish annual gift to my undergraduate university.  Believe me, they don't need it.  They recently celebrated their 800 year anniversary by setting a target of 800 million pounds that year.  They actually made a billion pounds.  I also give to the small US liberal arts college where I worked for many years.  On the other hand, I don't give anything to the US school where I got my library degree.  This a modest institution and they probably need their development dollars.

                   

                  I think part of my problem is with the whole issue of overbuilding, over expansion, and tuition increases in US higher education.  The students are consumers and they want grade inflation, olympic quality sports facilities, and the colleges set up grandiose development programs to oblige.  So in a sense giving to the alma mater can just be another way of feeding the beast.

                    • Re: Ever Consider Gift to the Alma Mater?
                      JerryD

                      RobinH, I share your concern over kingdom building at lots of educational and charitable organizations. In my case, I have written instructions that I want our gift to go for scholarships for those from the exact vacinity where I was raised and educated. The painful part is that we are not rich so our gift won't make the impact that I would like to see. A part of the goal behind my poll of my friends from that area is to solicit them to add funds to the same scholarship so that together we can help those that follow.

                       

                      Several have indicated that they give regularly but in small amounts. My approach is to insure that both the spouse and I will be covered until our passing and then to give a fixed percentage of our estate to a small number of charities, including my alma mater. This allows me to hopefully accumulate at least a modest amount that might be eligible for a legacy gift. This isn't to get my name on some small thing that goes on and on but to increase the impact, especially with the continuous increases in tuition. I know from experience that small sums were needed to go on those interviews and more funds were needed to cover the first few weeks or months on the first real job. So I am hoping that my little piece will have some important impacts too.

                    • Re: Ever Consider Gift to the Alma Mater?
                      dhartford

                      BRAVO to you.

                      Having spent nearly 40 years helping to raise funds for universities I can tell you that most schools depend on the private support they receive to provide the quality education their students ( and their students' parents) expect.  Public or private the support is critical and makes a difference.

                      Way to go

                      • Re: Ever Consider Gift to the Alma Mater?
                        sherylbug

                        I haven't made any plans to donate to the two universities I attended.

                         

                        #1 a huge state school that had to admit every high school graduate who applied if they were a state resident.  Then you were on your own.  I started there the first year they allowed women to wear pants on campus.  The sexism was horrible in my initial major.  I wound up graduating in a STEM field because they were more woman-friendly than my first couple of choices, but I didn't really feel there was any big connection.  Most of my "professors" were graduate students who really only went through the motions in order to finance their own studies.  The way they've blown money on sports with losing teams and scandal after scandal also doesn't make me want to give money to the school (except perhaps women's sports).

                         

                        #2 a fairly large private school where I was employed with tuition credits.  I did get a second bachelor's degree in a specialty  that was shut down shortly after I graduated, even though the (still-living) donor had a fit about it because of re-purposing money that was set aside specifically for that specialty.  The second major department I started taking classes in decided to start making it hard for staff members to take courses because they wanted people who would "contribute" to the department.  Fine, hit up the non-staff students for contributions.  Won't get a dime from me.  The way they gave the head of the school ridiculous sums while freezing salaries, union-busting and cutting tuition benefits also makes me reluctant to give any money.

                         

                        My support goes to food banks, women's shelters and civil liberties organizations, mostly.  YMMV of course.

                          • Re: Ever Consider Gift to the Alma Mater?
                            DRJJG

                            I give every year to 5 different colleges. $50 per year per school will not break the bank.

                             

                            Joe

                            • Re: Ever Consider Gift to the Alma Mater?
                              BoBraxton

                              I never took advantage of those tuition-reimbursement deals. The boss of my boss earned her MBA that way, now serves as a vice-president. If the employer sent me directly to a class and paid for it (as well as paying me my regular while I attended) I did so (attended) and took the learning quite seriously.

                                • Re: Ever Consider Gift to the Alma Mater?
                                  sherylbug

                                  The calculus may be different for faculty but I can't see why anyone would take a staff position at a university unless they wanted tuition credits for themselves or a family member.  Universities generally pay less than many staff members could get elsewhere.  I wasn't generally taking something job-related because it was too hard saying no to faculty in one context and then turning around and being dependent on them for grades in another context.  But I got a second bachelor's degree in another area because it was something I wanted to do and I couldn't afford to take off and pay for the classes out of pocket.  I was working full-time and taking 2 classes a semester all through the second degree and then after, when I was taking classes I was interested in.  Two classes a semester generally meant 12+ hours a week with labs.  I had nearly a 4.0 average.  I took the learning quite seriously, as I did when my employer sent me to seminars outside.  Possibly even more so.

                                    • Re: Ever Consider Gift to the Alma Mater?
                                      Susanna144

                                      My Mom still works at a University, at her advanced age.  I think she earns more there and has better benefits than she could outside of the university, and since she has a PhD in chemistry, she enjoys the more difficult problems, common in a research university.  I agree universities may sometimes pay less than for-profit businesses, but that's very dependent upon the field.  I worked at a university for 19 years and was paid pretty well there.  Also, universities typically offer a 2:1 company match on your retirement, 10% on top of your salary to the 403b retirement fund, when the employee contributes only 5%. 

                                        • Re: Ever Consider Gift to the Alma Mater?
                                          JerryD

                                          I worked at a national lab for quite a few years. It was managed by a major university which brought us non-PhD types major retirement benefits, their 9% contribution to my 5%, and the opportunity to add additional personal contributions which could be significant. This is the primary reason that I could retire and get out of the rat race early.

                                           

                                          But then there were the 25 days of vacation which I used EVERY year. We went back home for extended vacations several times a year since the trip was lengthy. But it's hard to beat the 365 days/year that I get now AND I use every one of them!   :-))))

                                           

                                          One down side to that type of organization is that employees stay forever and many have never worked at any other place. In my mind this kind of stagnates the way things are done, especially in support areas where some can rise to the level of their incompetence. And another attribute is that some control freaks have memories like elephants. They remember every occurrence of their perceived injustices if you ever did anything aggressive that shook up their little worlds.

                                           

                                          And then there were the periodic budget cuts where "offenders" were the first to go in order to preserve the "culture".

                                           

                                          Wait! Wait! Stop! I'm on "vacation" and I don't talk shop on "vacation".   :-))))

                                          • Re: Ever Consider Gift to the Alma Mater?
                                            sherylbug

                                            I said "some", of course that depends upon the field and the market where you work.

                                             

                                            Yes, the 403b contribution was good where I worked as well.  4% whether you contributed or not, plus 1.5-1 match up to another 4 percent.  So most years I contributed 10pct and the university contributed 10pct to my retirement.  But most private companies also (at least) match.  Many private companies also give bonuses.  So all of these things have to be taken into account.  If you get an extra 5% in 403b contributions but lose 20% in salary and bonus that's not much of a deal.

                                             

                                            W.r.t. vacation, at the university where I worked a person had to be employed there for 15 years before they got 5 weeks vacation.

                                              • Re: Ever Consider Gift to the Alma Mater?
                                                JerryD

                                                I didn't know what a bonus or profit sharing was until I left the technical labs and went to work for an investment banker. Along with those two new things came the very real possibility of being fired in an instant, something unknown in the technical labs. I was made aware of this when being introduced to a new boss who said even before I sat down "If you don't straighten up, I will fire you!". That's some Howdy Doody. Turns out he was one of the best bosses I ever had. His written recommendation 25 years after we worked together or even conversed was very flattering and humbling.

                                                 

                                                I later discovered stock options while serving a short stint at a dot-com. I also learned that 1,000's of stock options that are underwater are worthless. Some people also discovered that one needs to understand them or the IRS will come to get you.

                                                 

                                                The national lab has also cut the vacation promises for new employees. There I go talking shop again. This is interfering with my "vacation".  :-))))

                                                  • Re: Ever Consider Gift to the Alma Mater?
                                                    sherylbug

                                                    I've known people to be walked out in an instant in both research labs and at a non-research section of a university.  At the university, they also went through an exercise of going through one department at a time, firing all staff and then hiring back who they wanted.  The idea was to hire everyone back at a lower salary.  It didn't work in my department.  Nobody agreed to come back at lower pay. 

                                                     

                                                    Stock options at dot com startups are largely worthless, true.  But not all bonuses or profit-sharing come that way.

                                                      • Re: Ever Consider Gift to the Alma Mater?
                                                        JerryD

                                                        Sounds like the university is becoming the "real world". We had one kid working at one of the very largest employers in the world have the same experience. It fired everybody in a department, 700+ as I recall. They told them move from their beautiful and rural area to one of the largest US cities and they had a job immediately. For the rest they told them if they did not have a job offer after the interviews, they were terminated.

                                                         

                                                        Even for one not associated with their business, it appeared to be a stupid upper management move to move to that big city. It did not reflect their business. After a couple of years, the highest levels began to defect or be fired. They then closed the big city operation and brought back the refugees that wanted to come back "home". Can you imagine the discontent of those in the original location over the "big" salaries that they came back with?

                                                         

                                                        Isn't it painful to see what misdirected upper management can do to their workers? My experiences have ingrained a belief in me that the big guys make the stupid move(s). They fire the little guys for the poor results. And then they finally get the big guys, but then it's too late for the little guys.  :-(((