Thursday, June 14, 2007

Alumni Donations Aren't Just Altruism

From Inside Higher Ed :

Conventional wisdom has it that if an alumnus wants to help his kids’ chances of getting into the old alma mater, he should step up his contributions to the college for a few years before a child mails out an application.

Parents and college admission experts debate whether the strategy is effective, but “Altruism and the Child-Cycle of Alumni Giving,” a study released this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, uses data from one anonymous research university to confirm that it is a common practice among alumni whose children are getting ready to apply.

Analyzing alumni giving and admissions data collected between 1983 and 2006 at the university, referred to as Anon U throughout the study, two economists observed a close relationship between alumni giving and the age and college aspirations of their legacy children. The economists are Harvey S. Rosen, a professor at Princeton University, and Jonathan Meer, a graduate student at Stanford University.

Alumni, they found, are generally “selfish” when it comes time to write a check to their alma mater, taking into consideration the ages of their children and whether those children are considering applying.

The expectation that an alumnus’ donation can help get his child into his alma mater is one that workers in many development and alumni relations office discourage. Rae Goldsmith, vice president for communications at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, said that “ethically, admissions must be separate from fund raising.”...

Rosen and his wife attended the University of Michigan and give to the university every year. But his daughter, 26, and son, 23, both graduated from Princeton.

Harvey and I were classmates in grad school at Harvard in a dimly remembered, much repressed past life. He's done well in economics, a field I was (and remain) happy to escape. Princeton is a nice place; I hope his kids enjoyed their time there, despite the looming parental presence.

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