Monday, December 03, 2007

The Gift that Really Keeps on Giving

It’s that time of the year again: the time when everyone is thinking what to give to people who already have more stuff than they need. I don’t mean to sound cynical here … but surely I’m not the only one who deplores the excessive commercialization of the holiday season!

Gift-giving is great. But this year, let’s consider giving gifts that are truly meaningful. Why not consider a gift to a college or university? It’s something I do on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be a major endowment, like a full scholarship. Every donation — no matter how small — can make an important difference in a young person’s life.

A college education enables students to sample from a wide range of intellectual opportunities and learn the importance of discipline, strategy, networking and interpersonal skills. It enables them, first, to envision and, then, to achieve their dreams. It’s also essential for the future of the public relations industry.

Intellectual capital is crucial to our business. We need smart, strategic, well-educated people at every level, from account coordinator to CEO.

But college is expensive, and getting more expensive every year: as much as $30,000 or more for yearly tuition and fees.

With rising costs, more and more students are putting themselves into debt to finance their education, with the result that private student loans are growing an average of 27% annually, according to the College Board. The Boston Globe reports that almost a quarter of college students are forced to use credit cards to help pay tuition.

It’s not only hard on these college age kids (and their parents!), but it also bodes ill for future students. A recent survey found that students who graduated with no loans were twice as likely to donate to their alma mater. And those with loans below $20,000 were much more likely to give than those with higher debt.

By keeping the debt burden of students manageable, we make it possible for them to give back to their college — more generously and sooner after graduation.

There are lots of good reasons to give a scholarship. As a tax mitigation strategy. As a tribute or memorial to someone. Because it feels good. Because it’s the right thing to do. Because you want to play an important role in opening the doors of opportunity to talented young people … ensuring that they will be more successful and will become donors themselves.

Technorati Tags: scholarships,holiday gifts, college tuition, student loans, student debts, charity, donations, business, communications, public relations

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