Why I Gave

Why I Gave Money to UT

Yesterday, for the first time ever, I donated money to The University of Texas.

The occasion was an email I received from President Bill Powers announcing a record-breaking fundraising haul. At $396 million raised, this year’s total eclipses UT’s next-highest sum by $30 million—and the fiscal year is still three weeks from ending.

Here at the Texas Exes, where I work, I constantly hear from alumni with the perspective that I used to have: I gave UT lots of money to get my degree, why should I give any more?

What persuaded me was all the people who opened up their wallets (some 84,000 people, 2,600 corporations, and 304 foundations), the astonishing number of non-alumni who did so (35,000 or so), and that 90 percent of the gifts were for less than $1,000. If in one year that many people could donate to UT, particularly people who didn’t even graduate from here, so could I.

UT gets a really bad rap for supposedly having all the money in the world. Not a day goes by that someone on a message board or in the comments section of an online article musters indignation at UT for even suggesting it could stand to raise more funds. The results are predictable, and predictably misguided:

UT doesn’t need a tuition-revenue bond.

UT doesn’t need any more research funding.

UT doesn’t need to raise tuition.

Then, the most nefarious of all: Look, UT had a record year for donations, I don’t need to donate.

Never mind that the data show quite clearly that UT is not flush with money—when you break it down by per-student spending, we fall well behind our peers. Nor is it the case that UT is just full of bloat. In fact, it is among the most efficient state agencies.

What I came to realize when I saw that email from Powers is that there’s another way to react to the news that UT has brought in a record amount of money—I should give too! I know a few people who went to Ivy League schools, and I’ve never once heard any of them say, “You know, Harvard has enough money, I won’t give back to it.”

According to my friend Karl Miller, who works in UT development, donors want to support institutions they believe have positive momentum or that are striving toward something great. Say what you want about UT-Austin, but one thing that’s for sure is that it strives to be better. It is committed to becoming the best public university in the country.

Judging from this record fundraising total, alumni and non-alumni alike think UT is headed in the right direction. This year’s record number of applicants to UT suggests that potential students think we’re on the rise, too.

As for me, I recognize that UT gave me a great education—one I am still paying for today. UT may not need my money, strictly speaking, but like 84,000 other people, I think it has earned it.


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