As students prepare for another potential 15 percent increase in tuition — despite Gov. Rick Scott’s claimed plan to veto any tuition hikes — the USF Foundation Office of Annual Giving has created an organization that is asking students for more money.
The Bull Raisers is a new student-run group that encourages students to donate to the University before they even graduate. Though donations are voluntary, the idea behind Bull Raisers is ultimately unsympathetic to students and their growing financial strain.
The goals of the organization are certainly understandable and future-oriented — start asking students for money now and, ideally, they continue to give money later as alumni. Victor Teschel, assistant director of Development for Students and Young Alumni at the USF Foundation, told The Oracle, “Stats upon stats have shown us — and doing surveys with other schools — that if started early … a person is more likely to give, over time, more money.”
Yet it doesn’t seem right to solicit the most cash-strapped of all possible donors. As Teschel also said, “Why are we asking students to give money to the University when these are the brokest people on the planet, besides homeless people?”
This is indeed an important question to consider. With the Florida House approving an 8 percent tuition increase and an additional 7 percent hike expected to follow, it seems likely that students will again have to pay the full 15 percent tuition increase next semester. According to University Scholarships & Financial Aid Services, the average undergraduate debt of a USF graduate was $22,077 for the 2010-11 academic year. Add in the unpromising job and housing markets facing students, and it becomes easier to see why asking them for donations would seem tactless.
Students already do enough for the University, providing one of its main sources of income every semester in the form of tuition and myriad fees. In addition, some of the groups Bull Raisers seek to help, such as the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and Student Government are already among the biggest student-paid Activity and Service fee recipients.
People may give more money when they start the habit earlier, but most other Florida schools don’t solicit regular donations from undergraduates. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the University of Florida only asks students for donations as they are about to graduate, while the University of Central Florida and Florida Gulf Coast University don’t ask at all.
If the University wants students to give money as alumni, they must first satisfy their future donors’ needs as students. USF’s priorities need to be focused on keeping student tuition and expenses low, giving them an education they find useful and will be grateful for later and easing graduates into the job field.
If students are happy with the product they have received, chances are they will be more willing to donate than a student who remembers being pressed up for money throughout the whole process.