Sunday, April 22, 2018
Education

At USF, hitting up students for cash adds insult to injury

Okay, students, today's lesson is: How to get blood out of a turnip.

Not that I'm referring to today's fine crop of University of South Florida students as "turnips." But there may be those out there who would, given the latest plan to get something out of you.

Apparently, there wasn't enough bad news for college students this week with those fat tuition hikes looming, so here's an adding-insult-to-injury fundraising idea from USF:

How about we hit up starving college students for their Ramen Noodle money?

Talk about your timing: USF is forming an organization to solicit current students for donations just days after the state House gave the nod to a budget that includes an 8 percent tuition hike.

With, oh by the way, an expected 7 percent hit likely to follow, courtesy of the university system.

You wouldn't think this would leave much in the way of spare change for a USF Foundation group called the "Bull Raisers" to collect, and you can insert your own smart aleck take on that name here. But here's the plan: get students to solicit fellow students for donations to fund things like financial aid and campus organizations. Presumably, they'll do this like they're working a roomful of Donald Trumps, able to write a six-figure check on a whim, instead of a populace struggling under crushing student debt, tuition hikes and textbook costs — not to mention very scary questions about what a college degree will actually be worth in this wretched economy.

Nice idea, if students in general had it to give.

I love USF, my alma mater. I truly do. But a lot of us who went there back in the day struggled with the image of a newish commuter school without the benefit of the traditions of other state schools, like long-standing, fiercely loyal and monied alumni. You may not love the idea of what a football team can do for an institute of higher learning, but we got us a team and how fun has that turned out to be? If USF's growing reputation as a research university, or for cool things like the medical school or the Moffitt Cancer Center aren't enough, the Bulls are another reason for us alum to don the green and gold.

One person involved in the new student solicitation effort told Times reporter Kim Wilmath that the real goal is introducing students to philanthropy, which sounds akin to introducing them to yacht racing. Now? Really?

Want to give students a chance to give back to fellow students in need? How about we get creative with something like sweat-equity hours, as in free tutoring from those with knowledge in a specific subject?

While other schools may similarly hit up students, some, including the University of Central Florida and New College of Florida, do not. The University of Florida waits to ask until students are ready to graduate and (hopefully) start earning a real paycheck. And do we really need to give the Gators around here another reason to feel superior?

Donations are in no way mandatory, and so this is not the world's biggest outrage. Students can say no.

But here's the vocabulary words for the day, class, and ones I'd rather not have associated with the proud (new) traditions of my alma mater:

Just a tad tacky.

• • •

A note after Friday's column lamenting the Susan G. Komen's charity's regrettable and undoubtedly political decision to quit funding breast cancer screenings through Planned Parenthood — and then the news that the charity apologized and backed off.

Wow.

Sometimes people stand up (and write checks) for what's right, and even a major player like the Komen group has to hear them.

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