The number of students who make a gift to IUP from their own pockets or through their own fund-raising efforts has increased steadily in the last three years. Their generosity may be sparked by the example their predecessors, IUP alumni, set when they give to their alma mater.
On a snowy day last January, hundreds of students gathered in the Hadley Union Building to pay tribute to the 9,438 alumni, parents, and friends of the university who made gifts to IUP through the Annual Fund. In an event known as Tuition Freedom Day—one that symbolized the time in the academic year when tuition dollars stop paying for students’ education and private gifts begin to cover the cost—students stopped by for a snack and to write thank-you notes.
Emily Davis Smeltz ’01, M’02, whose office runs the Annual Fund and organizes student giving programs on campus, believes students learn something important from activities like Tuition Freedom Day, which is being retooled this year as IUP Philanthropy Day.
“They need to know how the generosity of others affects their educational environment,” Smeltz said. “They need to know that alumni give to IUP through the phonathon, direct mail, or through our e-mail campaigns—that gifts from alumni and others help to fund many things on our campus that directly affect them. It’s important that they thank those who have treated them so well.
“And, they’re surprised. When they find out how many people have given to IUP to their benefit, they feel compelled to take a moment to write a postcard to thank a donor. We don’t have to ask twice.”
That moment of recognition also has sparked in students awareness about the needs of their campus. Smeltz theorizes that students today tend to be more aware than their predecessors of what their tuition costs and what their debt will be when they graduate. In addition, they tend to be more brand conscious and want to know they’re graduating from a school that has the best of everything—including a reputation that will help them to compete in the job market.
Smeltz’s office also facilitates the Senior Class Gift program, through which class members choose IUP initiatives to support. “While they aren’t always able to give large sums, students are more cognizant than ever that their own contributions can mean something,” she said.
The Senior Class Gift experienced a 64 percent increase in number of gifts in 2012, the program’s 12th year. Most of the campaign’s proceeds were directed toward the Sutton Scholarship, a new scholarship being used to recruit high-achieving students, and the Science Discovery and Outdoor Learning Center, a fully equipped pavilion next to Stouffer Hall that teacher education majors use to facilitate programming for local elementary students.
Likewise, the IUP Ambassadors organization has funded several initiatives through its annual tuition raffle, established in 1994. Proceeds have supported scholarships, Six O’Clock Series programming, books and technology for IUP Libraries, and the technology in the Science Discovery and Outdoor Learning Center.
“Awareness of how gifts make IUP a better place is sparking attention,” Smeltz said. “Truly, students are interested in seeing their university be its best. They recognize the importance to them personally, and they see it will be valuable to them after they graduate.”
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