Your college tuition covered only a fraction of the cost of your education, you are told, and whatever success you’ve had in life is a result of the knowledge you gained and the people you met while in college. And surely you use in your daily life what you learned in important classes like “The Psychology of Deviant Social Behavior” and remember the great times you had in late-night bull sessions, your first sexual conquest or finding your one true love, and drinking with your buddies until you passed out? (In the last case, probably not; after all, you did pass out.)
These are all good reasons, I’m sure, to remember those halcyon days with fond nostalgia and to forget what a nuisance it was to be paired with a freshman year room-mate whose politics, personal hygiene (or lack thereof), and choice of music you couldn’t stand, or to have to fly Mohawk Airlines into Ithaca, New York, in the dead of winter after spending all night sleeping on the floor of LaGuardia Airport because you got “bumped” from your student stand-by flight. But with college alumni fever at a seasonal high here at NCAA basketball tournament time, here are ten top reasons not to give to your college alma mater:
10. They don’t need the money as badly as you do.
As of 2012, sixty-nine colleges and universities, from Amherst to Yale, from Notre Dame to Yeshiva, had endowments of at least one billion dollars each. That’s one billion, with a “B.” Topping the list is Harvard with over $30 billion in the bank, but Yale, Stanford, and Princeton all exceeded $15 billion and every school in the Big Ten but Iowa makes the list – and that state makes up for it with tiny Grinnell College at roughly $1.4 billion. The combined total of all college endowments is probably not quite enough to pay off the national debt, but it’s a lot more than you will ever have in your 401(k).
9. The president of your college makes more money than you ever will.
Okay, not everybody goes to Yale, but former Yale President Rick Levin recently retired after twenty years with a salary that topped out at over $ 1.6 million. (In 2010 alone, according to Bloomberg Business Week, Levin received a 6.4% raise from 2009 to $1,627,649 following a year in which Yale’s endowment fell nearly 29%, from $22.87 to $16.33 billion, and many Americans got no raises at all.) That same year, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 36 private-college presidents received salaries of more than $1 million each.
8. College didn’t teach you anything really useful.
Unless you majored in accounting or engineering, your college major and most of the courses you took probably didn’t do anything for you that you couldn’t or didn’t do for yourself. Most of the world’s knowledge is not in the heads of professors and their graduate students but in the world’s great books: from Plato and Jane Austen to James Joyce and J. D. Salinger, the world’s great writers and thinkers are out there for all of us to discover and you don’t need a college professor to find them.
7. Faculty don’t really teach very much.
One reason you didn’t learn much from your college professors is that many of them actually teach very little. Most of the nation’s great universities have become research institutes and business incubators, living off government grants and private donations and turning the knowledge they gain into profitable technologies they then license or around which professors build private businesses. That’s all well and good in a larger sense, but it’s a heavily subsidized process unrelated to actual teaching. What teaching does go on is heavily handled by graduate assistants barely out of college themselves who are hoping that someday they, too, will lead the life of a professor, which is necessarily nicer than yours. In short, you don’t need college professors as much as they need you.
6. That’s because they’re too busy travelling – at someone else’s expense.
I’m all in favor of world travel for the simple reason that, scenery aside, meeting people from other lands and finding out they’re just like you makes it less likely that some day you’ll want to kill each other. But in perusing travel brochures that arrive in the mail I can’t help but notice that college alumni tours escorted by one (or two) faculty members always seem to cost more than comparable tours not sponsored by colleges. The reason: You pay for the faculty members’ trips.
5. You pay taxes that they don’t.
You also pay taxes that your college professors and administrators don’t. Sure, they pay taxes on their reportable income, along with sales and gasoline taxes and the like. But your college president probably lives rent-free in a nice house, if not a mansion, for the value of which she or he pays no taxes, and professors have lots of tax-free perks – like travel. And so long as they remain “not for profit” institutions (despite their enormous wealth), colleges themselves pay no taxes on the property that they increasingly pull off the property tax rolls in that land that surrounds them, leaving a larger tax burden for the rest of us.
4. You work twelve months per year; they work eight or nine.
If you’re lucky enough to have a full-time job in the private sector then you likely work year-round. Sure, you get some weekends and holidays off – and maybe even a few weeks’ vacation if you can find the time to take it – but college professors and administrators get the same weekends and holidays plus “winter break,” spring break, and summer vacation. Don’t even try to get in touch with a college professor between May and September; they’re too busy travelling, likely at someone else’s expense.
3. Sex week.
Harvard, Yale, Northwestern, the University of Chicago, and a few other schools – perhaps no longer including the University of Tennessee – now offer a week of programs devoted to how to have more, better, and/or kinkier sex by yourself or with others of whichever (trans)gender you may prefer. Oh, sure, this sounds like a great idea and you’re wishing they had offered it when you were in college instead of having to figure it out on your own. But do you really want your hard-earned dollars subsidizing porn stars and prostitutes showing college kids how to have kinky sex?
2. Health care coverage for sex-change surgery.
Along with sex week, an increasing number of colleges are providing full medical coverage for sex-reassignment surgery. (No, we’re not being homophobic, bigoted, or anti-LGBT here; one of our favorite causes is the Human Rights Campaign.) But college kids who aren’t mature enough to stop drinking beer when they’ve had enough ought not to be encouraged to make such life-changing decisions as changing their gender. (They should at least leave that to graduate school.)
1. And the Number One Reason Not to Donate to Your College Alma Mater: You are responsible for your own success.
Yes, our president may tell us we “didn’t build that” and the more erudite John Donne put it more poetically: “No man is an island, Entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, A part of the main.” But the real reason your school was good, or great, or even moderately mediocre is because YOU were there. Graduates of Harvard, Yale, and the University of Notre Dame don’t tend to lead more productive lives because they attended those schools (although the connections they made there didn’t hurt) but because those schools attracted people like you: bright, personable, hard-working, and highly motivated.
Come to think of it, helping to put all good people in touch with one another might be a good reason to give after all!