College Alumni Say Affordability Should Be Top Priority

December 22, 2004 (PRLEAP.COM) Education News
Almost half of all alumni across the nation see college affordability as the most important issue for their former schools to address. A national survey of over 350 college graduates conducted in December 2004 by Opinion Dynamics Corporation found that 48% believe ‘making college affordable' should be the top-priority issue for their alma maters. As shown in the graph below, college affordability is far-and-away the most important issue.

In particular, female alumni (54%), alumni making $25,000-74,999 annually (56%), and alumni under the age of 45 (57%) believe that making college affordable should be the top priority.

The second-most mentioned issue, improvement of academic programs, garnered less than half of the alumni that considered affordability the top issue (22%). Of the nine issues given to alumni to choose from, either college affordability or improvement of academic programs was the answer for seven out of every ten respondents. Improving use of technology on campus and faculty recruitment and retention tied at a distant third, with four percent of alumni respectively listing each as their top concern.

Just three percent of alumni respectively found improving a school's reputation/image/visibility, attracting a more diverse student body, or renovating or modernizing campus buildings to be the top issue. Improving campus life (1%) and improving research capabilities (1%) were the least likely to be top concerns.

Why Is College Affordability So Important To Alumni?
Today's students are increasingly more likely to borrow to finance their education and wind up with larger cumulative debts. Average starting salaries for graduates have not kept pace with the rising debt loads, meaning alumni feel the impact financially for many years. Of course, this not only hinders their ability to give back to their alma mater, but raises many questions: Will younger alumni feel they are getting as good a return on their investment down the road compared to alumni of 10 or 20 years ago when tuition costs were substantially lower? And how does the affordability issue impact older alumni giving? Do alumni feel their school is doing enough to make college more affordable? Do alumni feel their gift can have any real impact, and are they being offered the option to donate directly toward scholarships? Our studies have often shown that alumni are more likely to be interested in supporting scholarships than any other aspect of Universities, including athletics, departments, and extracurriculars.

All alumni have an interest in their alma mater's reputation, and attracting talented students depends on keeping college affordable. Schools must not only communicate to alumni what they are doing to increase affordability but also communicate that alumni can and should help keep it possible for their school to attract the best students.

Other Survey Findings

Thirty-one (31) percent of the college graduates surveyed said they had made or will make a contribution to their alma mater this year. Of contributors, an overwhelming majority (85%) said they plan on contributing about the same amount next year.

About ODC
Founded in 1987 and headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., Opinion Dynamics Corporation ( is a national leader in education sector opinion research and public opinion polling. The firm regularly conducts research for colleges and universities interested in increasing their understanding of alumni opinions in order to implement more compelling and effective development and communications strategies.

For More Information, Contact:
Richard Greif
Project Director
(617) 492-1400 ext. 240