17% Day: A Community Celebration

On Monday, March 24, Connecticut College celebrated the third annual 17% Day in recognition of the generous philanthropy showcased by donors to the school. These donors include alumni, parents, faculty, staff, students and others. Students were able to show their appreciation by going to Cro, signing a thank-you card to a donor and receiving a free piece of pie.

But what is the significance behind that precise figure of 17%? Consider the sticker price of a Conn College education.

“Regardless of whether one is on financial aid or not, no student’s tuition covers the entire academic year. This is the case at pretty much all colleges and, at Conn, tuition covers 83% – that’s late August until about March 25th. That’s why we celebrate 17% Percent day when we do, because it’s the actual point in the year when one’s tuition “runs out,” said Andrew Nathanson ’13, Committee Head of the Senior Giving Committee.

The remaining 17% is covered by gifts, donations and other sources, all of which “complete the pie” and keep the College running. Gifts given by the College’s community of donors go toward the school’s Annual Fund, which provides support for the general operations of the campus. Some of the areas that the Annual Fund helps to maintain include faculty support, science education, financial aid, residential education, the library, internationalization, the renewal and maintenance of buildings on campus and internships.

The day itself is a student awareness day, meaning that it is lead by student groups relating to advancement: the Senior Giving Committee and SGA Advancement Committee. This year’s 17% day featured over six kinds of pie that students received in exchange for personalizing a thank you note to a donor.

The Camel mascot also made an appearance saying, “17% day is a fantastic expression of gratitude, pie, and school spirit. This is a day to truly engage with and embody #CamelPride. 17% day is all about thanking the wonderful people – our families especially – for helping us fund this top-notch education. It is about celebrating all that is ConnColl, raising awareness about the funding necessary to provide our outstanding quality of life, all while enjoying some delicious pie. Because really, who doesn’t feel warm and fuzzy inside after a nice slice?”

What 17% Day proves is that philanthropy is important not only for current students but also for alumni. On one campaign sign, Andrew Margie ’96 is quoted: “I love Conn and think giving back is the right way to show it. I’ve given to the Annual Fund every year since graduating and try to increase my gift every year. Each gift is important for what it says—it’s an endorsement of what the College is doing. This helps Conn’s reputation, and the better the reputation, the more valuable my degree.”

“17% Day is purely an awareness day and a day to say thanks. We don’t push donations, instead use the day to teach the campus community about why these gifts are so important to the college in the hopes that senior giving and alumni appeals won’t come as a shock for a student with multiple years and memories of 17% Days,” Nathanson said.

Ruth Rusch Sheppe ’40 agrees on the importance of paying it forward. “[A] gift will strengthen the College’s ability to enroll the best possible students regardless of their ability to pay.” However, it is not just students receiving financial aid who benefit from the generosity of Conn’s philanthropist community. More tangible projects that provide students with new social and academic spaces, such as the newly renovated New London Hall and its impressive facilities, along with the addition of Ruane’s Den in Harkness House, were fueled by the support of donors.

As indicated by the 17% Day campaign signs, the fact that tuition only covers a portion of a student’s educational costs is not unique to Conn. Schools like Bates, Colgate, Hamilton and Trinity each share in this phenomenon. Yet the way in which Conn uses its donated funds is one area in which the College can maintain its individuality; 17% Day heavily promotes this point. Though it may sound clichéd, donations and pledges of all sizes really do have an impact on the continual improvement of the campus and its facilities.

In the past three years, approximately 61% of alumni have given to the College, and this year, over 400 volunteers are working with Annual Giving staff to raise more than 5 million dollars through the Annual Fund. A donation demonstrates gratitude to the school and is a great way to help current and future students achieve success, as well as guarantee the value of a Connecticut College degree in the coming years. Alumni who graduated more than fifty years ago continue to donate to this day. 17% Day is a fantastic way for current students to achieve a better understanding and appreciation of the community that supports Connecticut College.