Giving to my alma mater – it’s complicated

Today I spent some time inviting fellow 2007 alums from my college to donate to the college’s annual fund. Although I love my college, I often have mixed feelings about fundraising for it.

I feel a little sentimental when I think about the warm community I found at Mount Holyoke College.

I met people from all over the US and abroad. The campus was beautiful and cozy with its historic buildings, dining halls in most dorms, two ponds, and wooded trails.

I took challenging classes that left me with that “mind blown” feeling at least a couple times a month. I sat in rooms with 10 students and one professor around a table.

Malyszko/Mount Holyoke Photo

I lived in dorms and shared bathrooms with women and transgender men. I’m delighted that MHC now has the “most trans-inclusive” admissions policy of any college considered to be a “women’s” college.

I may not have a high-paying, high-power job or career path, but Mount Holyoke helped me develop the ability to look at systems, culture, and people from a variety of perspectives.

My education cost a lot of money. My parents were able and willing to contribute a large portion of my tuition and room/board. I received a small amount of financial aid, and the rest I’m paying off in loans.

This is not a problem exclusive to Mount Holyoke. I’ve never been completely satisfied with explanations of why the cost of higher education has skyrocketed over the past few decades. There have been proposed solutions to the problem, and it will be interesting to see if they play out in the future.

On an individual level, I have questions. Will it help if we make more private, individual donations to our alma maters? Will that defray the cost of tuition for future students? Like a community-based, pay-it-forward system?

In the meantime, I will always feel that there are more “deserving” charities and nonprofits, and people who need their services for basic needs. But, because I value education as a potential means of dismantling systems of oppression and inequality, I will still give to Mount Holyoke.

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