Since almost a third of charitable contributions happen in December, it’s no wonder our mailboxes and inboxes are full of pleas this holiday season. I get it. I’ve served on nonprofit boards in the past, and I know first hand how much end of year donations mean for next year’s funding. Over the years, we’ve been fortunate to have the ability to give back to a variety of organizations, but one place I’ve never given a penny to is the universities I’ve attended. Do you give money to your Alma Mater?
I have no issue with either of the higher education institutions that educated me and laid the foundation for my career. My undergraduate work was at Western Kentucky University, a medium sized, state school that is actually in the south central part of Kentucky. Western was kind enough to give me a full ride through college which allowed me to come out of undergrad debt free.
Southern College of Optometry traded a doctorate degree in exchange for $60,000 in student loans. I actually don’t regret borrowing that money, although I probably could have gotten by on less.
Obviously, SCO prepares students pretty well because they have had a zero percent default rate on student loans for the past 18 years. I’d sure hate to be the poor schmuck who breaks the streak!
Why Don’t I Give Back to My Alma Mater?
I don’t really have a reason not to give to WKU other than it doesn’t seem like the most needy place for the money I have available for charity donations. Western is a Division I school, so they get decent money from athletics, and tuition is high enough that the university doesn’t seem to be in dire straits.
Shameful Confession: I Hold Grudges
I do actually have a reason for not giving money to SCO, and I’ll admit, it’s pretty petty. It all goes back to the days when I was graduating and applying for residency. I really wanted to stay local, but I applied for residency slots elsewhere as well. I was offered a position in another state but turned it down because the residency director in Memphis told me I was second in line for the spot I thought I wanted.
Their first choice was actually a classmate, and I knew he was going to another school. The job should have been mine, but they ended up offering it to a person who didn’t even submit an application. I took it fairly personally at the time, but now I understand that’s just how things work. However, I feel the director should have been upfront and told me I didn’t have shot. I swore right then and there that I’d never give a penny to SCO.
In hindsight, it was the best thing that could have happened as I ended up taking a residency position with the Indian Health Service. That decision has paid me back in spades many times over, but I still haven’t felt the need to open my wallet for SCO.
Fund a Wing or Send a Kid to College?
I’ve never even been tempted to donate money to a college until I got a recent mailer about the retirement of one of my favorite instructors from optometry school. The college wants to name a wing after him but needs X amount of donations to make it happen. I was all ready to send a check until I got donation requests from the local humane society and my former high school’s scholarship fund.
I can’t do it all, and it seems the local charities have won out yet again. Somehow, I think my alma maters will survive without my support. I can’t say the same for the homeless pets in my hometown. I also can’t forget how helpful scholarship money was my education and in showing me that there is more to life than the town I grew up in.
With donations to local organizations, I know where 100% of my money goes. I’m sure money donated to larger places would be put to good use, but I won’t know the person it helped or if I’m paying for someone to research the sleep cycle of cockroaches.
So while I really hope the school does name a wing after my professor, they will have to do it without my monetary support.
Do you donate money to your alma mater?