Why the hell did this happen?
$150,000. Thus far, through loans, grants, scholarships and my own money, Ithaca College has received over $150,000 so I can attend this institution, and I’m not done yet. Next semester I will be paying an additional $20,000 to finish my education, while graduating a semester early and saving a semester’s worth of tuition and housing.
$170,000 seems like an awful lot of money to me. Yet on Feb. 26, and during the few weeks preceding it, I was encouraged to donate to the college through the first ever IC Giving Day. IC Giving Day was a 24-hour fundraiser to raise money for the annual fund, which supplements the funds provided by tuition. Current students, alumni, faculty, staff, family and friends were asked through multiple platforms to donate to the college. During the 24-hour period $735,249 was raised through 2,306 donations.
I was told I should give back and enhance other students’ educations when I am still paying for that same education and will be graduating with thousands of dollars of debt. Granted, I knew what I was getting myself into when I decided to come here, but I also didn’t sign up to give more money to the college than I had to.
Have I had good experiences while attending Ithaca College for the past two and a half years? Yes. Have I benefitted from the opportunities I have been offered? Of course. Have there been things I wish I could change or policies I disagree with? Sure. Do I think my experiences here and the education I have received warrant being asked through multiple platforms to donate to the college before I graduate and find a job? Hell no.
I think it is great the college wants to offer an outstanding education and help its students in various capacities, but I don’t think targeting current students is the way to accomplish that goal. While I know there are students who can afford to give back right now and think their experiences here have warranted that, we aren’t all in that position.
Considering Ithaca College is a private institution that will be charging over $55,000 in the 2015-16 academic year, after a recently announced 2.73 percent increase in the total cost of attendance, I think the people who organized this campaign need to be sensitive to what they are asking and the messages they are sending. Asking alumni who have jobs and can support themselves to donate is a completely different story. If they feel like the college greatly helped them in life and they want to give back, all the power to them. Alumni and I are in completely different positions, and hopefully one day I will be in their shoes and will be successfully supporting myself and want to thank the college.
Not only did the campaign make me angry because it was asking me to spend money that I didn’t have, it made me feel guilty. The incessant emails, tweets and Facebook posts were a constant reminder that I wouldn’t be one of those people who “ … care enough to support the IC experience and the students whose lives you’ll change.” If 100 people donate $10, then the college would receive $1,000. I should be able to spare $10, right? That $10 could be the difference of buying more fruit at the grocery store next week.
The day of the event, I was also bombarded with a corny video featuring President Tom Rochon. Apparently Rochon telling me to donate was supposed to make me more likely to give money. What would have been more interesting and entertaining is if Rochon told me how much he was donating to the college.
When I first heard about IC Giving Day, I assumed it would be about charitable giving, either through fundraising for a specific cause or helping the community. This is the kind of day the college should be organizing. There are plenty of worthy causes that could greatly benefit from our funds. There are causes right here in Ithaca that could be helped, especially considering the amount of resources students use while they are here.
Students use public transportation, hike through state parks, rent housing and frequent local shops. Ithaca is currently suffering from an affordable housing problem, which has partially been caused by expensive student housing and the low vacancy rate. You can’t tell me there isn’t a way the college community can help struggling families who need housing.
I understand the college is a business and it needs money to run, but the way this initiative was executed does not sit well with me. I want future students to be able to utilize the same resources I have and have comparable experiences, but that shouldn’t come at more of an expense to me than it already has.
Taylor Barker is a junior journalism major who doesn’t like being kicked when she is already down. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.