No Strings Attached
Gifts to the Alumni Annual Fund provided critical support and flexibility to Carleton during turbulent times.
As COVID-19 began to rage across North America last spring, the economic fallout was immediately palpable for college students from coast to coast. Summer jobs and internships were altered or eliminated altogether. Many families lost significant income. And parents of students across the country, trying to minimize spending and prepare for the long term, were trying to keep credit card debt down and wondering if they’d be able to afford tuition.
And yet, while many other like-sized colleges struggled to support students, Carleton increased its financial aid commitments. In large part, this is because of the size and scope of alumni gifts to the Alumni Annual Fund, which supports the college’s annual operating budget. Typically directed to the college’s highest and most pressing needs— teaching and learning, and financial aid, for example—these funds allow Carleton to be more responsive, said Rod Oto, associate dean of Carleton Admissions and director of Student Financial Services, “particularly in uncertain times.”
Many of the supplemental aid packages Oto’s office issued last year were relatively small— often just a few thousand dollars per student. “I know that doesn’t sound like a lot given the millions in the financial aid budget,” Oto said. “But we helped resolve crises for students and families. We couldn’t have done this without the flexibility in our budget to help students, much of which came from sources that gave us that flexibility.” Student aid packages were left intact, even as Carleton refunded most students’ room, board, and fees for the term. The college offered special consideration for seniors eligible to graduate early. And the college adopted a no-layoff policy for regular staff and faculty members through the fiscal year. There were even funds for college partners Bon Appétit (food services) and Barnes & Noble (the bookstore) to help keep Carleton-based employees on their payrolls.
Gifts to the Alumni Annual Fund are as crucial as they are appreciated. Unrestricted gifts can be used for any purpose, and right away. As Carleton faced the unprecedented challenges of the past year, the generosity of Annual Fund donors allowed the college to support students, faculty, and staff when they needed it most.