Class of 2018 senior class gift sees 47 percent participation rate

by Anthony Robles | 7/20/18 2:45am

The Class of 2018’s participation rate for their senior class gift is 47 percent, a decrease from the Class of 2017’s 51 percent participation rate, according to Dana Metes, a managing director of the Dartmouth College Fund. The Class of 2018’s senior class gift, named “’18s for Financial Aid,” will support financial aid for members of the Class of 2022.

The participation rate increased after the DCF sent an email to the entire Class of 2018 on June 22 stating that the participation rate stood at only 28 percent. Furthermore, the email urged the recent graduates to “please give what you can” because “gifts of any size count.” Class officials from earlier classes sent similar emails urging alumni across various classes to contribute to the DCF before the College’s fiscal year ended on June 30.

The low participation rate continues a trend that began after the record high 99.9 percent participation rate set by the Class of 2010, in which only one student abstained from donating. Since then, the participation rate of every class declined until it hit 31.3 percent in 2016, the lowest rate since the Class of 2004’s 13 percent participation rate.

Metes, who has managed the DCF for the last four classes of graduates, said that there likely wasn’t a single reason for the fluctuating donation rates over the last five years or so, adding that all classes were different “in terms of the senior class gift team.” She also stated that the DCF would look into further exploring their usage of social media.

“We can’t expect [students] to participate if they’re not getting the message,” Metes said. “I think that’s one way that we’re looking to make sure that the participation rate stays relatively balanced across class years.”

Some consider the senior class gift a referendum on the college administration, with low participation rates indicating disapproval with college policies. A survey of the Class of 2018 conducted by The Dartmouth indicated that 60 percent of graduating seniors held an unfavorable view of the administration as a whole, while only 21 percent viewed it favorably.

Despite the decrease in participation rate for the Class of 2018, executive director of the Dartmouth College Fund Sylvia Racca A&S ’13 said that the participation rate among all alumni for the DCF was “just over 40 percent,” with their contributions totaling “just over $46 million.” Both figures would mark an increase over the previous fiscal year, which saw 39.5 percent of all alumni contributing a total of $43.8 million. In the last fiscal year, 85 percent of the money donated to the Dartmouth College Fund went toward funding financial aid for College students.

The participation rate among alumni put the College second among all Ivy League schools in regards to alumni donations, with 55.7 percent of Princeton University undergraduate alumni donating to Princeton’s 2017-18 Annual Giving campaign.

The College currently finds itself in the middle of a $3 billion capital campaign, “The Call to Lead,” of which $1.5 billion had already been raised before the campaign was announced in April. According to Racca, the DCF plans to contribute $400 million to the campaign. The last capital campaign began in 2002 under former College President Jim Wright and ended in 2010 under former College President Jim Yong Kim. Furthermore, while fiscal year 2017 saw the first decrease in total donations and commitments to the College since fiscal year 2013, with only $285.6 million, Racca added that the College would “set a new dollar record” for fiscal year 2018. The previous record for donations in a fiscal year was that set in 2016, which saw $318.8 million donated to the College.

While the DCF raises money for financial aid, most donations and commitments primarily go toward supporting athletics programs, renovating new facilities — like the Hood Museum of Art and the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge — and funding faculty research, among other measures.

However, despite the general decrease regarding Class of 2018 donations toward the College, the latest Forbes Grateful Grads Index, published last August, still had Dartmouth atop their list of “best-loved colleges,” based on median donations per student for ten years and the alumni participation rate. The College topped the rankings with 10-year median donations per student of $29,561 and a three-year average alumni participation rate of 42.3 percent.