For the first time in UT history, there will be a time-restricted giving campaign that focuses primarily on raising funds from current students instead of alumni: “40 Hours for the Forty Acres”. After years of throwing away charity mail, you have probably grown too desensitized for the previous sentence to mean anything to you. But that shouldn’t be the case. Because this time, the organization asking for your donation is one that you are inextricably tied to — this University. And our University badly needs extra funds.
As Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Kevin Hegarty told The Daily Texan last semester, state funding has been declining for the last 26 years. Student budget advisory leaders have recently proposed what most of us would consider the last resort — raising tuition, which has been frozen for the last four years.
Though donating does not necessarily drastically shift the tuition conversation, it certainly helps with the central issue of budgetary deficiencies.
“Many students don’t know this, but only 24 percent of the UT budget is covered by tuition,” said Julie Lucas, assistant director of development for the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs. “That would mean a student’s year might end in mid-November if we were solely dependent on [tuition] dollars. By being a part of the giving tradition now, you ensure better education and resources for not only your class but for future Longhorns too.”
Another major reason donations are so important is that it affects our nationwide ranking. The U.S. News and World Report confirmed just last month that alumni giving is a data point that plays into their ranking system. It’s no coincidence, for instance, that Princeton is ranked first on that organization’s college list and also has the second-highest alumni giving rate in the country — 61 percent.
“When alumni are giving back, at any amount, ranking corporations see it as a vote of confidence in the school,” said Luke Ward, campaign committee member and communication studies and corporate communication senior.
With a current alumni giving rate of only 32 percent, it’s hard not to speculate about how many accomplished professors, students and staff we have foregone, inhibiting our academic reputation, ranking and admissions. This campaign presents the opportunity to increase that giving rate so that it is actually an accurate demonstration of student’s enormous pride in our school.
“Many of our students are very philanthropic and donate time and energy to a number of great organizations around the community but often don’t realize that it is also important to give back to UT,” Ward said. “The overall idea, for both alumni and students, is to foster a culture of burnt orange philanthropy that will become a fun, annual tradition for years to come.”
Any specific donation can go toward the donor’s cause of choice, be it a certain college, department, program or initiative. Fortunately, almost all colleges and more than 20 student organizations have already jumped on the “40 for Forty” initiative and begun raising funds.
The 40-hour campaign starts at 12:40 a.m. April 3 and ends at 4:40 p.m. April 4, but the multi-platform strategy online and on campus has made the campaign practically unavoidable. Students interested in giving can either attend the live student campaign on Gregory Plaza from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 4 or make their gift online at 40for40.utexas.edu.
Though it definitely won’t be easy to ignore the campaign’s flurry of social media activity, substantial representation by colleges and organizations and finale event on Gregory Plaza, you certainly could keep your checkbook closed throughout it. But I urge you to think twice about how you show your support for your education. If you don’t think that the University giving you your degree is worth any more of your time or money, nobody else will either, including employers and other universities.
Even if you can only give a single dollar, your participation speaks louder than your monetary contribution. Ultimately, it sends the message to everyone both here at UT and anywhere else that our University is an institution worth supporting.
Huynh is a Plan II and business honors sophomore from Laredo.