College Graduates With Debt More Likely to Give Back, Survey Finds

College Graduates With Debt More Likely to Give Back, Survey Finds

More than eight in ten (82 percent) college-educated Americans view the rising cost of higher education as a top issue in the 2020 election campaign, a report from educational fundraising platform GiveCampus finds.

Based on a survey of a thousand college-educated adults, the report, 2019 Economics of Education Report: U.S. College Graduates' Views on Giving, Student Debt, and the Cost of Education (11 pages, PDF), found that 91 percent of Gen Z (individuals between the ages of 18 and 29), 87 percent of millennials, 85 percent of Gen X, and 74 percent of boomer respondents said the rising cost of postsecondary education was "one of the most important issues" in the 2020 election. Conducted by Wakefield Research, the survey also found that the cohort which most cares about the issue are people who support their alma mater philanthropically, with 93 percent of respondents who supported their alma mater in the last twelve months saying the rising cost of college should be a top election issue.

According to the report, survey respondents were nearly three times more likely to donate to a charitable cause other than a school than to give to their alma mater (65 percent vs. 22 percent). And while 93 percent of those who gave to their colleges in the last twelve months also gave to a charitable cause, only 31 percent of those who gave to a charity also gave to their alma mater. The report also found that scholarship recipients were three times more likely than non-scholarship recipients to give to their alma mater (30 percent vs. 10 percent), even though they were more likely to be making monthly student loan payments (50 percent vs. 27 percent), while alumni with student loan debt were nearly three times more likely than those without debt to have given to their alma mater in the last twelve months (34 percent vs. 12 percent). Alumni donors with monthly student loan payments also were nearly twice as likely to give more than $1,000 in a year to their alma mater than those without student loan payments (44 percent vs. 23 percent).

In addition, four out of ten (44 percent) survey respondents believed that a gift had to be at least $1,000 to make an impact, while only 26 percent said that gifts under $100 mattered. Among those who gave to their colleges in the past year, 47 percent believed that only gifts of more than $1,000 made a difference and only 16 percent made gifts of less than $100. And 40 percent of all respondents who gave to their alma mater and 31 percent of the group with the strongest tendency to give — alumni with student debt — said they would be more likely to give, to give more frequently, or to give in larger amounts if they could do so quickly and easily via their mobile phones.

The report's recommendations for strengthening colleges' fundraising efforts include providing greater transparency and a broader choice of giving options; focusing on communicating impact; elevating small gifts; and enhancing mobile giving channels.

"Donors are deeply invested in the outcomes tied to their philanthropy, particularly when they are giving to projects and programs that are personally important," said Felicity Meu, director of partner success at GiveCampus. "However, many alumni feel that small gifts don't do much and aren't satisfied with the ways their alma mater asks for donations. With improved transparency, engaging outreach, and better options for giving, educational institutions can cultivate a culture of philanthropy where every gift of any size matters."

"Rising Cost of Higher Education Is Top 2020 Election Issue for Most College-Educated Adults, According to New Survey." GiveCampus Press Release 07/10/2019. "2019 Economics of Education Report: U.S. College Graduates’ Views on Giving, Student Debt, and the Cost of Education." GiveCampus Report 07/10/2019.