Staff Editorial: AU must reform donation solicitation tactics

Donation solicitations are essential to any University framework, but AU needs to rethink asking recent grads

Staff Editorial: AU must reform donation solicitation tactics


From the Newsstands: This story appeared in The Eagle's April 2022 print edition. You can find the digital version here

All American University students are familiar with its ad campaigns. Whether it’s “Change Can’t Wait” plastered in the East Campus courtyard, or mailers in our parent’s mailboxes, the ads are unavoidable even while attending AU. After graduating, it won’t stop, either. Although a whopping 93 percent of alumni do not donate to the University after graduating, AU sometimes begins asking alumni for donations mere weeks after receiving their diplomas. With 60 percent of students graduating with debt, this practice is uncomfortable and audacious. 

On March 1, AU announced a 5 percent increase — $3,100 — in undergraduate tuition in 2023 and once again in 2024. They explain that the increase “directly supports our ability to expand institutional financial aid.” However, the average financial aid available per person is only increasing by $1,400 in 2023. For students who need financial aid, and the 60 percent that graduate with debt, these tuition increases are only harmful. Despite the financial burden of college, AU asks students for donations almost immediately following graduation.  

It’s also worth noting that President Burwell’s salary increased by $72,580 in 2019, more than 9 percent. 

For many, college is simply a service. Some students spend over $200,000 on tuition alone. There should be no expectation for students to provide the University with even more money. Especially for students graduating with lingering student loan payments in a national student debt crisis, immediate money solicitations are unwanted.   

In an interview with The Eagle, the Development Office of Development and Alumni Relations said that they do not target alumni for donations based on income or graduation year. If the University wants to increase its donations and establish a better rapport with its alumni — especially those graduating with debt — maybe it should do just that. 

Most students graduating from college are not wealthy enough to immediately donate to their alma mater. AU must implement a buffer between when they start asking for donations and when students graduate. Older alumni, who are more likely to have a steady job and income, are much better candidates for potential donations. 

AU should move away from only asking for monetary donations and instead utilize the “changemakers” it has educated. School of Communication alum Emily Tillett told The Eagle that she dedicates her time, rather than money to AU. Alumni do not have much interaction with undergraduate students at AU. The Eagle Editorial Board believes this is a missed opportunity. The University can retain connections with alumni without pandering to alumni who are still paying off their debt. This could be achieved through more mentorship programs like SOC and the School of International Service’s programs, especially in less popular schools. Alumni could also speak in classes and share their real-world applications of the material at hand. AU should utilize its alumni beyond simple cash donations. 

Of course, all universities ask for donations and all universities increase tuition. This is not to completely advocate otherwise. Instead, AU should reasses who they are targeting and what they are asking for when reaching out to alumni. It’s saddening to see that AU hasn’t made more of an impact on alumni to warrant a donation. AU must give students a reason to want to donate when they graduate. Perhaps bridging the gap between students and alumni is the first step. 

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