Alumni Donations Less Than Altruistic
> 7/11/2007 3:18:25 PM

In a report that will come as no surprise to those who decry the "legacy" policy pervading so many of our most highly esteemed universities, researchers found that alumni giving to an undisclosed university very closely coincided with whether or not said individuals had college-aged children applying to the same school.

Charges of nepotism in the Ivy league are hardly news despite America's desire to cling to the image of our educational system as a veritable meritocracy. While the idea of contributing some of one's hard-earned cash to an alma matter as thanks for years of quality educational experience and resulting degree makes sense, the study found that patterns of giving very closely followed the "child cycle": alumni, by large degrees, donated more money when their children reached high-school age, donations dropped off during senior year after admissions decisions had been made, and donations decreased more steeply among those whose children were not accepted.

"In most Ivy League institutions, legacies make up between 10% and 15% of every freshman class." The equal-opportunity credentials of schools where heredity plays such a large part in the application process are suspect to say the least. So is this simply an example of class envy, coming as it almost certainly does from those who did not attend said schools? Some very rightly contend that any slight advantages afforded applicants should go to those with less of an inherited edge. And many such schools do make a point of admitting those whose roots have made the academic struggle that much more difficult. But, of course, arguing with money, even in the case of institutions with more than enough to spare, is a difficult proposition, and even the most fervently held beliefs may be dissuaded by the right sum.

Still, this study hardly accounts for the millions of dollars received by various universities each year at the hands of their alumni. And a good many of those, despite their sterling pedigrees, do not have access to the money that could concievably determine the academic futures of their children. While certain individuals most certainly dump (for lack of a better word) large sums into the coiffers of well-established universities with the hopes that such generosity could boost their children's chances of acceptance, they almost certainly do not account the totality or even the majority of donations. Millions of Americans, for example, donate to non-profit organizations of their choice every year with no real possibility for personal gain beyond a boost to one's sense of self-worth and a sense of contribution to the greater good.

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