I Cannot Run This College on Less Than A Billion Dollars

Dear Alumni,

I have terrible news. The value of our beloved alma mater’s endowment grew only 21%, bringing us to a paltry billion dollar valuation. With a student population of 1,600 demanding undergraduate-clients, that means we have less than a million dollars to spend per capita, not that we would ever spend a penny of our precious capital. No. We must make this quaint learning community function on fumes and dreams, because it’s impossible to run an institution of higher education on anything less than a billion dollars.

We need your donation.

State of the art, gleaming architectural gems don’t just appear on our carefully manicured quad, you know. Our student dorms were built to evoke the Grand Canyon and Mount Everest at the same time but are just overbuilt steel-and-glass clumps that cost a bazillion dollars to heat and cool. Every student is assigned a residential success manager to facilitate social and development opportunities that we used to call “dorm pizza parties.” We require that each student slumber in a private bedroom with restroom facilities en suite, and then we charge them through the nose for the privilege. Our luxury facilities are a vital part of our marketing plan. The debt service on the dorms alone eats up half our tuition revenue. Now we have to hire another world-famous architect to renovate our student center to compete. I envision a new recreational student space inspired by the mating rituals of endangered butterflies as a way to signal to our prospective students (and their tuition paying parents) that we are a school that shields graduates from the despair of a Gilded Age economy. Also, that we care about sustainability. I need your donation to make this vision a reality. I’ve been wrong about every other vision I’ve had but this one is part of our strategic plan and is therefore infallible.

We cannot offer anything in return except nostalgia.

We can’t even afford to send you a decal sticker for your car. We have to save every cent to pay for staff needed to manage our exciting growth projects; such as marketing and student outreach and retention and fundraising and also the costs of my $3.5 million dollar (base) compensation package. Our development experts take 50% off the top of every dollar you give. I’m okay with that because it takes money to make money. Non-profit doesn’t mean no-profit, after all. It just means instead of generating shareholder value we throw everything in our endowment and then bathe in the bank vault like some kind of deranged Scrooge McDuck stereotype. Just kidding, we don’t have a bank vault. The entire endowment is invested in Bitcoin. We cut costs by asking students to volunteer for the fundraising phone-a-thon. Participating students are recognized with a work-study scholarship that barely covers their mandatory student fees. Student fundraisers lubricate donor purse strings with the perfect mix of guilt and shame, although our ungrateful alums are catching on by blocking our calls. That’s why I’m resorting to this letter. Times are tough.

If nostalgia is not enough to get you to give, consider your donation an investment in our brand. Our brand is your brand.

Alumni giving is a key factor in college rankings. If we look good, then you look good. If we look bad, well, you look like a miscreant who really should have gone to a state school. Speaking of state schools, we now have to compete with flagship public institutions that are unfairly subsidized by the government. I want you to know that I am the victim here – stuck between our Olympic regulation squash courts that seemed like a good idea five years ago and a rock of public accountability. My job is so hard I had to hire a bunch of specialized consultants to do it for me. People are asking impertinent questions about high tuition rates when the reality is that tuition doesn’t begin to cover the full cost of educating a student at this institution. When you think about all our students receive in return – the development-stunting staff support, the palatial facilities, maybe even a laptop and definitely a liberal arts education that provides zero employable skills – higher education is a serious bargain!

If you don’t care about your brand, then consider the fact that we make it easier for the children of alumni to gain acceptance into our hallowed halls and spaceship dorms. If you want your kids to have this prestigious name on their diploma, you’d better pay up.

You may be wondering if it makes sense to donate to a college with a billion dollar endowment when our democracy is under attack and our planet is dying and you’re still paying off the student loans you needed to attend this school in the first place. I want to underscore the fact that creditors are circling like sharks and we need your money more than ever. Don’t make me sell this campus out to the highest bidder! There are only so many higher education leaders who have the skill and vision to drive a centuries old institution into bankruptcy, and I’m getting recruited by three other schools due to this shortage of executive talent. I’m feeling undervalued and am seriously considering leaving and taking my overpaid deputies with me. So please give and help me make the fundraising targets I need to get my annual performance bonus. If that doesn’t motivate you, just remember that any cash left over goes to a great holiday party for our faculty and adjunct teaching staff (in lieu of health benefits).

Thank you,

Your Beloved Alma Mater President

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