How to Make Your Degree More Valuable

Unfortunately, it is not widely known that the College’s alumni giving rate plays a significant role in determining its national ranking in publications such as U.S. News & World Report, Kiplinger, and the Princeton Review.

This is particularly relevant to St. Mary’s because of the great progress we have made in recent years. Ironically, despite the extensive physical and academic improvements the College has undergone, our sub-par alumni giving rate has had a particularly detrimental impact on our rankings.

I understand that arbitrary rankings or what may seem to be the superficial perspectives of the above mentioned publications do not accurately portray the excellent quality of the overall experience at St. Mary’s. It is, however, indisputable that the rankings do have a rather significant influence on the perceived value of our diplomas.

Whether you are applying to graduate schools, competing for a position in the Peace Corps, or seeking an entry-level position in a Fortune 500 corporation, a diploma from a top 100 college undoubtedly carries more weight than one that isn’t ranked.

Most publications employ a formula to determine its rankings. One of the most important variables is the percentage – and not the dollar amount – of the alumni base that donates to its respective alma mater.

As far as national rankings are concerned, there is no difference between a $10,000 check and our graduation gift of $20.09.

Moreover, there is a widespread misconception that as a public institution, the College relies primarily on funding from the state of Maryland for its operation.

This cannot be any further from the truth.  Less than 28% of the College’s support comes from the state of Maryland.  Because of the continued decreasing share of public support, the College’s external support is essential, particularly from those that know her best, our alumni.

I am certainly aware that everyone is suffering from today’s perilous economic circumstances. It is, however, ever more imperative for us to give to the College every year in order to prevent the College from making more difficult decisions like cutting the ARC hours.

You can donate to any cause at the College – athletic teams, clubs, scholarships, academic departments, and/or St. Mary’s Projects. Think of what has made your time at St. Mary’s particularly enjoyable and make a contribution to ensure that others will be able to enjoy it as much as you have.

In the coming months, the Director of Alumni Relations, Dave Sushinsky ’02, is unveiling a percentage challenge to all alumni to increase our giving rates. Let’s make the Class of 2009 the leader in this initiative.

Please don’t ignore your senior pledge reminders or phone calls from students that are working hard to raise money for the Annual Fund. As new graduates, we will all be working on limited budgets, but know that the few dollars you spend on your daily cup of coffee will go farther than you imagine as a gift to St. Mary’s.

Good luck with the final chapter of your undergraduate studies. We have less than 50 days left until graduation so let’s work hard and play even harder. Thank you.

-Jae Lim ‘09

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