Money makes the world go round in higher education. Money keeps students comfortable with dorm renovations and the College cutting edge with brand new buildings. Money allows students who could otherwise not afford to come to Bowdoin with the aid they need. Money enables everything from the large-scale to the unseen functions of the College to keep ticking. But money doesn't grow on trees.
One of the key reasons that Bowdoin has been so successful is the generosity of its alumni. The five-year-long Bowdoin Campaign exceeded its $250 million fundraising goal by $43 million. While meeting the ambitious goal was an achievement in its own right, the unexpected surplus truly illustrates the loyalty Bowdoin alumni feel toward the College.
The fact that The Bowdoin Campaign is over is no reason to stop giving. Communities distinguish themselves in tough times, not easy ones, and we should look at this period of uncertainty as a tremendous opportunity for the College.
Bowdoin can innovate while its peers are stalling by ending, as quickly as possible, the two-year freeze of professors' pay instituted in early 2009. Thanks to a jobless market and the implementation of similar pay freezes at other colleges and universities, star professors are ripe for the picking. By removing the cap on salaries ahead of the pack, Bowdoin could attract talent that might otherwise by snatched up by our peer schools.
So far, Bowdoin has fared the storm admirably compared to many of our peers who have closed museums and dining halls, laid off significant portions of their staff, and revoked no-loans admissions policies. As families of the matriculating Class of 2014 required more financial aid than ever before, 46.8 percent, Bowdoin rose to the occasion. But we cannot take this example for granted; it may not be sustainable in the long run and that is why we need your help. As generous as the College's policy is, we are unable to compete with the financial aid policies of America's premier research universities. If Bowdoin could give as much aid as those institutions, it would. Alumni must help Bowdoin compete for the best students in the nation.
Rankings do matter, and average annual giving rates constitute 5 percent of the U.S. News and World Report annual college rankings. If for nothing else, alumni should strive to increase the perceived value of their degrees by donating. In fact, those alumni who might think they have the fewest reasons to donate—recent graduates—stand to gain the most from an increase in Bowdoin's perceived prestige as they navigate the early stages of their careers.
The altruism of alumni giving underwrites the goals outlined in "The Offer of the College." Supporting financial aid and improving access for low-income students is at the heart of the College's commitment to the Common Good. In a recent survey conducted by the College, alumni identified financial aid as a primary cause they care about supporting. Seventy percent of financial aid is supported by the endowment. In other words, disadvantaged Bowdoin students, present and future, are reliant on the generosity of alumni.
Bowdoin has one of the highest giving rates in the country. In tough times, our alumni have proved exceptionally generous and we have much to be thankful for. That said, why can't we be the best? During The Bowdoin Campaign, alumni participation reached a peak of 59.5 percent, an extraordinary achievement. In the fiscal year 2010, 54 percent of alumni participated, a small decrease. In the end, what matters most is attracting and supporting outstanding professors and students. The goals of the College are high and we hope alumni and other benefactors will continue to support them.
The editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient's editorial board, which comprises Claire Collery, Nick Daniels, Piper Grosswendt, Zoe Lescaze and Seth Walder.