Senior Fund Prepares Seniors for Life as Alumni
Whitman’s senior fund committee has collected $8,500 from their fellow seniors to fund scholarships for future Whitman students, and is on track to break the senior fundraising record of $12,000 set by last year’s graduating class.
The committee, composed entirely of seniors, has already received donations from 30 percent of the senior class and hopes to expand participation to 50 percent by the end of the semester. The fund will be added to the endowment formed by previous years’ gifts, a portion of which will be given to the Office of Financial Aid at the end of the year to fund student scholarships.
“Right now students are getting about $8,000 a year from past students, but if the current pace is kept, then in about eight years it will be a full ride, given to students by students,” said senior fund committee member Devin Kuh.
Last year a concerted effort by seniors, faculty, parents and alumni raised over $75,000 to transform the senior fund into an endowment. The endowment provides money for scholarships through interest, adding annual donations to grow the main balance and increase funding for the next year. Previously, each year’s funding went directly to the Office of Financial Aid and the account started over at zero dollars the next year.
Whitman’s senior fund was not always directed at scholarships. Previously, the senior fund committee decided on a project around campus and used the money it raised to see the project completed. In 2008 the senior fund’s goal shifted toward providing aid to future students.
“The idea is to prepare the seniors to be Whitman alumni. We want to treat them the way we treat Whitman alumni. We want them to give because they believe in the college and they want to pay it forward, and that’s done by making gifts to the college, to the annual fund, to scholarships, to specific departments, as opposed to having a bench in their name,” said Annual Giving Program Officer Brenda Michels.
A major source of donations comes from the $300 deposit all students pay upon accepting admission at Whitman. This money is held by the college for all four years of a student’s career and is returned upon graduation should the student have no outstanding debts to the college. The senior fund committee encourages seniors to pledge at least a portion of their deposit to the fund.
So far an estimated 30 percent of seniors have contributed to the fund, compared to 52 percent participation by last year’s seniors at the end of the year. The senior fund committee hopes to boost participation past 50 percent by the end of the semester, though it also recognizes that not everyone is able to contribute.
“I think everyone has different [reasons] for or for not donating. I would say the biggest barrier is people feeling they’re not financially able to donate, and I feel that’s very much a fair way of looking at it,” said senior fund committee member Dana Fong. “We just try to tell people that it’s for a good cause, any little amount will help.”
Along with managing the senior fund, the committee works to organize countdown parties for seniors. While the only one this semester has been the 200 day countdown party, next semester will see a string of events in the days and months leading up to graduation.
“One aspect of [being part of the fund] is senior parties and senior events, just that camaraderie and trying to build that back,” said senior fund committee chair Chris Andrews. “When you come in as a freshman you get really tight as a group, and then as a sophomore you start to divide into majors, and junior year you go abroad. And then senior year everyone’s back again, and it’s that idea of getting people to enjoy their senior year with that whole cohesive class unit before we go our separate ways.”
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