5C Seniors Continue High Rate of College Donations

The Claremont Colleges' senior classes want to bring home the bacon. A ceramic piggy bank named Ellen is the prize awarded to the senior class that achieves the highest participation rate for senior donations.

For the past five years running, Pitzer has won the contest. Last year, 99.6 percent of its senior class donated to the class gift. The competition has always been close, however, with CMC ’10 hitting 99 percent and Scripps reaching 95.2 percent.

Of course, seniors are encouraged to keep the real aim of donations in mind.

“It’s not all about the pig,” said Marguerite Kissel, Assistant Director of the Annual Fund at Scripps. “There’s a lot more that goes into it.”

For example, this year's Pitzer senior class voted to contribute its gift toward the Friends of Luke Rogers International Programs Fund, which provides financial aid for exchange students from developing countries, as well as for Pitzer students studying abroad. Luke Rogers, whom the fund honors, was a member of the Class of 2011 who passed away in 2008.

At Harvey Mudd, seniors can “allocate [their gift] to whatever priority they have personally,” said Perry Radford, manager of the Senior Gift Program. Most gifts go to the annual Mudd Fundd, which in turn is distributed to areas such as financial aid and instruction. Others choose to donate to a senior class scholarship.

Pomona students can also choose where their gift goes. The college suggests sustainability, financial aid, and the“greatest need” as ideas, but students can also choose to donate to any other Pomona group that does not do its own fundraising, such as the campus resource centers or academic departments.

Scripps College's senior gift traditionally goes to fund a scholarship for continuing sophomores, juniors, and seniors with demonstrated financial need. The scholarship recipient is chosen by a member of Scripps’ staff called the Stewardship Officer.

Claremont McKenna’s senior gift goes to the college’s Annual Fund, 80 percent of which is committed to financial aid. The other 20 percent goes to areas of greatest need.

Some colleges are finding other ways to raise money through matching donations.

The Crown Challenge, set by CM ’74 Steve Crown, lets CMC seniors set an annual donation rate for the years before their five-year reunion. For every senior that gives to the fund, Crown will donate at least $1000 to the college. For donations over $150, he will donate $2000.

A similar promotion is going on at Mudd, where this year’s seniors’ donations are being matched 2:1 by the Mudd Class of 2006.

If Pomona seniors manage a record-breaking year, a tree will be planted in Marston Quad in their honor, according to Senior Class President Meredith Willis PO ’11.

The colleges have been hosting various events this semester to encourage participation among seniors. Mudd hosted a pizza party at Jay’s Place which coincided with the meeting of the Alumni Association Board of Governors (AABOG). The president of AABOG addressed assembled seniors about “what it means to be alumni specifically of our institution and what the relationship is like, and how you can stay engaged in a variety of ways.” According to Perry Radford, Manager of the Senior Gift Program at Mudd, about half of Mudd’s seniors attended.

Pomona hosted a “Senior Salute” event that raised donations by about six percent, Willis said.

So far, about 20 percent of Mudd seniors and around 38 percent of Pomona seniors have donated, according to Radford and Wills. Radford, however, was not bothered by the low numbers.

“We tend to have people give later, closer to graduation,” she explained.

According to Willis, a few seniors had mentioned to her that they plan not to donate to the class gift because of continuing conflicts between the college administration and Workers for Justice (WFJ), the pro-union group of dining hall workers. Willis encouraged them to donate anyway. If they wished to express their dissatisfaction with the college, she said, they could still do so by donating in honor of WFJ. Since all honorees are published in the Class Day program, Willis said, donating in WFJ’s honor would call more attention to the issue.

Seniors also have college rankings to consider. The U.S. News and World Report uses the percentage of alumni and seniors who donate as one of its many ranking criteria.

“This actually affects our ratings,” said Willis. “Those who don’t give [are] hurting themselves because they’re discrediting the institution where they chose to spend four years of their lives.”

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