If 80s and 90s cinema taught me anything, it's that athletes love the time they spend in college, and smart kids spend a lot of it with their underwear pulled over their heads. But things improve for eggheads after they graduate, right? Now in their 30s, they frolic in the glow of their Apple screens while paying the mortgages on their converted San Francisco loft spaces. They can afford to remember the underwear-over-the-head-years as a "formative experience" because it led them to something better.
I graduated in 2008 after spending two years longer and tens of thousands of dollars more than I should have for my Bachelor’s degree; I now make less than I did before I started the program. The bi-monthly solicitation calls from Temple University that cite my "formative undergraduate experience" in the argument for why I should donate might as well be asking if I'd like to contract shingles.
Development people bang their heads on their desks trying to figure out why today's "young alumni spend $10 a day at Starbucks," but refuse to contribute to their alma mater. Maybe it's because that $10 at Starbucks buys temporary asylum from the squalid "living space" they split with ten other "young alumni," hot bunking between 50-hour-a-week internships.
Would I like to give $10 to a university that has its chute fixed to dump another 5,000 unemployable kids on my neighborhood this summer and jack up my rent again? I'd sooner invest it like this:
University development takes criticism from both sides, I imagine. People like me blame fundraisers for the missteps of a university they don’t run. Their superiors, the same mugs who robbed me at high speed on the tuition train, probably blame them for failing to execute a second heist.
But let’s look at the facts, figure out a way to deal with them and think about how to bring development campaigns closer to the realities of young alumni. Basing donation appeals to the post-education bubble demographic on campus loyalty might not be the best idea.