Puget Sound education, worthy charity


As of the end of February, the One of a Kind campaign has raised 110 million dollars.
The campaign, with its 125 million dollar fundraising goal, seeks to increase financial aid and improve our already beautiful campus. These projects include the newly built Commencement Hall and Weyerhaeuser Hall, as well as the upcoming aquatic center and soon-to-be-finished expansion of Wheelock Student Center.
That is a lot of money for a school with only 2,600 students.
As it stands, the University of Puget Sound already offers a stellar education in very nice facilities staffed by outstanding faculty. Right now, already 9 out of 10 students receive some form of financial aid. Could all this money be put to better use?
Philanthropy ranges from donating to combat hunger issues domestically, clean water issues internationally, equal rights opportunities and private university endowments. Is our need for nicer facilities on campus really stronger than the need for clean water, healthy food or shelter in impoverished communities worldwide?
There is no straight answer.
Obviously, the need for funds in a university is less pertinent than other issues, but that does not mean they are not important.
According to the National Philanthropic Trust, in 2012 there were 312 billion dollars of philanthropic donation. In relation to overall charitable giving, the One of a Kind campaign’s goal seems less outlandish and appears reasonable in scale.
Thus, even though hundreds of millions of dollars to private universities may seem exorbitant, the high numbers are not in isolation. Huge amounts of funds are going to other more pressing issues.
An anonymous student proposed that a small portion of alumni donations to the University be used for a charitable fund. This charitable fund would involve students in the decision making process.
Not only would this narrow the difference between donating to private universities and other charities, it would empower students to become more involved with issues external to daily campus life.
Additionally, the alumni funding for universities is important, both in terms of financial aid and campus improvement.
Every student’s tuition only covers about 80 percent of the university’s overhead. Alumni support fills in those gaps.
The portion of the endowment going to financial aid is important because it diversifies our student body. Without financial aid, universities such as the University of Puget Sound would be limited to students from well-off families who could afford to pay full tuition. Alumni donations increase the accessibility of higher education.
In terms of campus improvement, alumni are important because education is a competitive industry. Having access to new lab equipment, funding fellowships in specific areas of study and recruiting high quality professors helps keep the Puget Sound education cutting-edge.
All this money, in the end, is really about the students. The cost is high, but so is the payout.
According to the University of Puget Sound’s website, “the Campaign for [the] University of Puget Sound supports our one-of-a-kind, pioneering spirit, making it possible for another generation of Puget Sound graduates to realize their full potential in building the best and brightest future imaginable.”
A University of Puget Sound education empowers students to make positive change in themselves and in the world, and this education is enabled by alumni support.
Fortunately for us, President  Thomas believes wholeheartedly that the investment in higher education is a worthwhile one. To understand this, we must not focus solely on financial terms.
The U.S. News and World Report ranks colleges partially on alumni participation and funding, and now President Barack Obama seeks to measure colleges by graduates’ first year salaries. These methods are restrictive and contradictory to the purpose of higher education.
For the financial investment to be recouped, it will not necessarily be in financial terms.
Higher education transforms students into productive members of their community. These benefits may be measured in terms of a student’s self-discovery and pursuits of fields that may be more worthwhile than profitable.
For example, there are countless careers in education, charitable work, the government sector and scientific research that may not pay well but nonetheless benefit the society at large.
Educations like ours at the University of Puget Sound create productive world citizens. One only needs to look at an example such as alumni participation in the Peace Corps to realize that a good education, supported by alumni funding, molds students who are needed in society.