Student legacy program promotes charitable donations

“Mind the gap” say the 150 T-shirts given to students outside the Grill last week.

“Mind the what?” asked some students.

Although confusing to some, the slogan refers to the gap between the university’s tuition revenue and its annual costs.

Tuition revenue covered university costs from Sept. 9, 2009, until April 12. After April 12 and through the June 30 end of the fiscal year, St. Thomas began to run on other sources of revenue, primarily donations from alumni and friends.

The shirts were distributed by the student legacy program as part of its “It Takes More than Tuition Week.”

Kristen Winchell, student legacy program co-director, said the week’s goal was to show students how important charitable donations are to St. Thomas.

“A lot of it’s just education and understanding how the university is run,” she said. “We don’t get state and federal money. We’re not a public institution, and we need other sources to help us out.”

Winchell said many students were surprised to learn that tuition doesn’t cover all university expenses and that scholarships are funded by charitable donations.

“I had no idea,” junior Mark Brown said. “I think tuition here is definitely overpriced. I’d be a lot more willing to give if it meant that it went toward student aid instead of university operations.”

Winchell stressed participation over high dollar amounts.

“We’re trying to be simple in explaining that the tuition doesn’t cover all expenses,” Winchell said. “We want to encourage people that had a good experience at St. Thomas and maybe wouldn’t have been able to go to St. Thomas without a scholarship to also give back someday.”

Senior Mike Connell said this knowledge might affect their willingness to give back to St. Thomas after graduation.

“If I can afford to have a job where I can afford to donate, I definitely will,” Connell said.

Donors to St. Thomas’ $500 million Opening Doors capital campaign can choose where their donations are used by the university.. The campaign’s chief priorities are campus construction ($182.5 million), financial aid ($130 million), and the School of Law ($22 million), but donors can contribute to other causes of their choosing.

While just in its first year, “It Takes More Than Tuition Week” will be a worthwhile educational tradition for years to come, Winchell said.

“We’re hoping we can do this every year and it’ll be something that people kind of know about and look forward to,” she said.

Brent Fischer can be reached at