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Corey is a contributing writer at The Hudsucker. Born in a suburb of Atlanta, he graduated with a degree in Accounting and French Linguistics from Berry College in 2009. Corey now lives and works in the Greater Atlanta Area as a TPF Programmer for the airline industry. Corey’s ever expanding list of hobbies range from spontaneous travel, super-hot pepper gardening, and home renovation, to his most recent as a moustache enthusiast. If a project ends with 10 fingers, Corey deems it a success.

Do You Give To Your Alma Mater?

There are days that I wake up and think, if I could do it over again, I would choose a different major or  learn a useful trade through a certified program. I absolutely love my job, but the cause of my frustration is that it has absolutely nothing to do with my degree. I’ve always heard that the average person is likely to change careers 3-7 times, but I can’t squelch the feeling that my degree is less valuable because I’m no longer working in the field. I’m not completely unappreciative either; what I value most from my liberal arts education is the level of emphasis they put on critical thinking and writing. That’s a strong foundation upon which any career can be built. But reflecting upon my financial position, and the ever-increasing cost of an education today, I question if a different educational path would have been more successful on a cost to performance ratio.

In a report titled “Degrees of Debt”, the level of debt in regards to education has been rising steadily for the last 9 years.

“The average total price of attending both public and private non-profit 4-year institutions (in both current and inflation-adjusted terms) has increased every year since 2002. To put it in perspective,

The College Board estimated that student loan volume, in constant 2011 dollars, increased from $23 billion in 1992-92 to $100 billion in 2007-08, with about $25 billion in 2007-08 borrowed from private loan sources.”

Attending college has become so celebrated that we are willing to pay whatever is asked of us to attend. But how do most students tackle this obstacle? Debt financing. And often times not just for the institution, many students need to take out more than just tuition costs to accommodate their cost of living expenses as well.

 A quick search on FinAid.org provided results on some of the most popular loan choices including the Stafford Loan, governed by the Department of Education.

“The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 cut the fixed interest rates on newly originated subsidized Stafford loans for undergraduate students to 6.0% (2008-09), 5.6% (2009-10), 4.5% (2010-11) and 3.4% (2011-12), with a return to 6.8% in 2012-13. These cuts are available only to undergraduate students, not graduate students, and only for subsidized Stafford loans, not unsubsidized Stafford loans. Those loans remain at a fixed rate of 6.8%.”

Six point eight percent!? Most car loans don’t even fall into that category yet this is how we treat our education.

England has a much more progressive policy, heavily favoring the students and allowing them to leave college with a clear and predictable payment plan. Their 24+ Advanced Learning Loan should be a model upon which the rest of first world nations strive to achieve.

Here is the site overview for the 24+ Advanced Learning Loan program.

Image Credit: Christina Vasilevski

To paraphrase: While incurring interest, graduates pay off the loan with stipend payments through his/her employer and if the loan isn’t paid off in 30 years, it’s forgiven.

That’s a lot of talk about finances to get to my topic of interest. Alumni donations. It wasn’t a week after I walked for my diploma, and moved back home to my parent’s basement to celebrate my unemployment, that my school’s alumni office contacted me for a class of 2009 donation campaign. The job market was looking bleak as was my personal balance sheet. I literally felt strangled by the compounding interest on my school loans but here I was taking calls from my alumni center.

I get it, a college is a business. They all have their  grants, trusts, and investments, but donations are still a very real source of income, not to mention a point of pride for schools to have a strong alumni donor list. While researching, I learned that alumni donations are alive and well and a higher percentage of alums donate than I previously imagined. In fact here, I found that the top 10 colleges in 2013 all had a majority of former students donate to the school.

As an accounting major who found his first job on Craigslist then eventually escaped to a completely different industry all together; I have a very difficult time justifying any amount of discretionary income to my school. I budget very strictly (as my wife can attest) but it’s because we are trying to go the debt free route in life. My own school loans are finally paid in full, but we still have a mighty tall order for my wife’s nursing loans. Our priority is debt reduction LONG before we ever walk down the road of school donations.

Perhaps as I get older I’ll feel a sense of pride or duty to give back. But having only just escaped paying for the most expensive hat I’ll ever own—that time is not now.

Here’s my question:

 

Do you personally give to your alma mater? Let me know in the comments below.

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