As he asked the school’s Board of Trustees Friday to give preliminary approval to a third year of a tuition freeze, Purdue University President Mitch Daniels indicated holding the line on tuition is causing Purdue donors to be more generous.
Daniels showed the Trustees numbers indicating the school could reap $50 million in gifts before the fiscal year ends in June. The amount already pledged marks about a 50-percent increase over the annual amount the school was given, on average, over the last five years – but that figure may be skewed by the nationwide recession and the downturn in giving it precipitated.
Either way, Assistant Vice President for Development Greg Kapp says the freeze has made his job of selling the school easier.
“It’s a great conversation to have with a donor when you’re on the phone and you can say ‘Hey, your gift will not be eroded because there’s going to be no tuition increase. Your gift will go completely for scholarships,’” he says.
Kapp says the confidence the president has shown in the plan has been reflected in how his department seeks outside funding.
“Messages of need don’t really resonate with donors,” Kapp says. “They want to be associated with winning programs and winning ideas. So we don’t go out with that ‘We’re holding the line on cost, so we really need your help.’ You go out with ‘Hey, we’re providing excellent educational opportunities,’ and so you do it from a position of strength and being upbeat as opposed to whining about need.”
Indeed, Purdue has received pledges totaling about $45 million so far this fiscal year. Over the last five years, the school brought in an average of about $30 million in donations annually. Daniels told the trustees that before tuition was capped the last two years, Purdue had increased its cost by more than two thirds – from around $6,000 a year to about $10,000 -- from 2003 to 2012.
But other numbers Daniels presented indicate students need those scholarships. Sixty percent of Purdue undergrads assume some amount of debt before they graduate. Among those who do, the average debt load for a four-year degree exceeds $27,000 per student, which is a couple thousand dollars above the national average.