Why the Senior Campaign?

By Dean Curran

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Spring can be a hectic time at the University of Massachusetts, especially for seniors. But while you are busy preparing for graduation and life after college, do not forget to participate in the time honored tradition of the Senior Campaign. Every year, seniors vote on the class gift in a student-led effort to create a culture of giving and appreciation for philanthropy at UMass. This year, the class of 2011 voted overwhelmingly in support of the Need and Merit Based Scholarship Fund, according to the Annual Fund. The goal of the Senior Campaign Committee, which is composed of 26 students, is to raise $40,000 for the fund. A deserving student will be awarded a scholarship every year by subsequent Senior Campaign Committees until funds are depleted.

Though the University has been increasing its fundraising efforts for financial aid and scholarships, more students are requiring aid as the state cuts more funds to UMass. Our university depends on private support more than most students realize, and participating in the Senior Campaign is a once-in–a-lifetime opportunity to leave a lasting impact on it.

Some students object to donating to UMass because they already pay tuition. All students know it can be a great expense. But tuition only covers roughly 23 percent of the cost of educating each student, according to the UMass Amherst Annual Fund. And while UMass is a state-assisted public university, only about 27 percent of the annual budget comes from the government. The other 50 percent is provided by private philanthropy. Most of this money comes from corporations such as Microsoft, who gave $2 million in grants over the past five years which went into developing the Learning Commons in the basement of the library. But before major companies will agree to support UMass, they scrutinize our school’s pledge rates – the percentage of alumni, parents, friends and students who give back. Pledge rates are the universal indicator of satisfaction with a university, not just for potential corporate sponsors, but for national ranking systems as well. The higher a school’s pledge rates are, the easier it is to raise millions in corporate support and climb the ladder of college rankings. Giving to the Senior Campaign helps boost UMass’s pledge rates, which in turn make it possible to get corporate support. This provides more resources available to students and increases the value of a degree from UMass. In all these ways, your support of the Senior Campaign has a broader significance outside the class gift.

Plus, getting involved in the Senior Campaign is fun. The Senior Campaign Committee has four events planned. First, they’re kicking off fundraising with two trivia nights on March 22 and 24 from 9-11 p.m. in the Grad Lounge. There will be free food, complimentary 2011 pint glasses, and prizes for winning teams (including prizes from American Eagle, the UStore, Bertucci’s,and others).

On April 25, there’s the Senior Shovel and Scoop, when the class tree will be planted, followed by ice cream sundaes in Memorial Hall. April 28 is gratitude day, when the Committee will raise awareness about the generous support UMass receives from its donors. Lastly, all seniors who pledge to the Senior Campaign by April 15 will receive an exclusive invitation to a wine and cheese event at the chancellor’s house on April 28. This meeting with Chancellor Robert Holub, his wife and others is an excellent networking opportunity. Participating in the Senior Campaign can be a great social experience as well as a generous way to help others.

After all the members of the Class of 2011 have moved on, their legacy will remain in the Need and Merit Based Scholarship Fund. As you prepare to finish your UMass education, be appreciative of the generous support of private donors that has made it possible. Consider helping deserving students who may have to leave school for financial reasons to get where you are. The students that will receive the scholarship in the coming years will be eternally grateful for the investing in their futures. So give to the Senior Campaign, and go to some of the events. It’s a great chance to unite with your classmates around a worthy goal.

Dean Curran is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]