The Official Student Newspaper of Calvin College Since 1907
April 3, 2009
Volume 103, Issue 24
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Gifts go beyond tuition
Writer explains why giving to Calvin should be a priority

Soon most of you will be alumni of Calvin. But what does it really mean to become an alum?

Finding a job? Hopefully. Starting a family? Perhaps. Trying to figure out what on earth you want to do with your life? Certainly.

Beyond those things, becoming a Calvin grad allows you a deeper perspective to reflect on what Calvin meant to you and what Calvin’s impact is around the globe. In doing so, we all have the great opportunity to thoughtfully consider what we can do to ensure the sustainability of this fine institution.

First, let us consider a moment some of the defining characteristics of Calvin. Calvin is an academically excellent institution as well as a not for profit organization. Calvin consistently ranks near the top of any study with comparable institutions in academics. However, a statistical study doesn’t seem to capture the energy or the excellence that a Calvin education inspires in its students. It doesn’t take more than a cursory search to find Calvin alumni doing amazing things around the globe.

Dr. Christopher P. Holstege ’88 credits Calvin for equipping him to rise to unexpected challenges, such as secretly flying to Vienna to treat Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko from a deliberate case of dioxin poisoning in 2005.

For his senior design project, Jordan Hoogendam ’04 designed and installed the photovoltaic roof for the Bunker Center here at Calvin, which gave him the crucial and extraordinary experience to become a green building project manager for the only engineering firm in Ontario that is entirely dedicated to green building.

Engineering major Laura Rip ‘04 studied renewable energy while at Calvin, which led her to take a position in Antarctica as a facilities engineer. Rip maintains and monitors the heating system that is powered by waste energy allowing scientists to study the South Pole and the global climate.

The only full-time U.S. field worker for Micah Challenge U.S.A, an affiliate of the ONE Campaign that seeks to halve absolute global poverty by 2015, is Jason Fileta ’05. Fileta credits Calvin’s International Development Semester in Honduras for transforming him into formidable advocate for the global poor.

The list goes on, and on, and on.

Calvin is also a not for profit liberal arts school, meaning that fiscally it is very similar to any other charitable organization. Not only is Calvin a charitable organization, it is a very stewardly charity when it comes to translating philanthropic dollars into tangible action. Just this month Calvin received a four-star (out of four) rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent evaluator of charities. To remain solvent, which is also to say to continue educating and grooming students like Christopher P. Holstege, Jordan Hoogendam, Laura Rip and Jason Fileta, Calvin requires sources of revenue beyond tuition.

Although tuition does seem hefty and each hike feels like an additional weight being place on your already burdened shoulders, tuition alone only accounts for three quarters of the college’s revenue. Let that sink in. Tuition only gets us to mile 20 in the marathon of the Calvin budget. The remaining 6.2 miles (or 25 percent) is run principally by alumni through their financial gifts. Alumni that have lived and breathed the same campus believe in the promise and potential of today’s current students.

Furthermore, absolutely no tuition dollars are allocated for building projects like the new — and I must say breathtaking — Spoelhof Fieldhouse Complex. Fundraising for building projects occurs completely separately from tuition payments, and instead through campaigns, such as the one you see advertised on campus right now.

One of the most effective and meaningful ways that alumni support the college financially is through the Calvin Annual Fund. The annual fund gifts are so vital because they can be used anywhere on campus to address needs and opportunities as they arise — they aren’t already designated for a specific purpose. Principally, the annual fund directly lowers the cost of tuition and makes it more affordable for every student regardless of their level of financial aid. Although there are other ways the college keeps tuition as low as possible, such as named scholarships, grants and endowment, the annual fund is a crucial and direct element.

Charitable gifts also influence Calvin’s national reputation. The number of alumni who donate is an important measure of “alumni engagement,” a metric that influences the national ratings of Calvin by organizations such as US News and World Report. So, bigger and better alumni engagement numbers elevates Calvin’s national reputation. It’s a way for alumni to endorse Calvin’s mission and what it stands for while simultaneously increasing the value of their own degree.

Students have a special opportunity to direct their annual fund gifts to the Community Care Fund, which is a fund that helps students and their families when emergencies and crisis arise. For example, the fund originated when the seeing-eye-dog of a student several years ago was hit on Burton Street. The Community Care Fund helped the student with expenses.

Charitable gifts, therefore, ensure the sustainability of Calvin, significantly lower the cost of tuition, and increase Calvin’s national reputation. But most importantly, when an alum — or a student — makes a gift to Calvin, it’s the best evidence we have that the people who share our college’s past also believe in its future.

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