Hillsdale College’s 1844 Society is striving to bridge the divide between stu­dents, alumni, and the insti­tution itself based on their common appre­ci­ation for a Hillsdale edu­cation.

Founded last fall, the 1844 Society began to foster student-alumni rela­tion­ships as well as increase alumni engagement with Hillsdale by encour­aging stu­dents to invest time and money in the college before grad­u­ation. Director of Alumni Vol­unteer Engagement Colleen McGinness, who started the society and cur­rently serves as its staff adviser, com­pared it to the student-alumni asso­ci­a­tions found at many other schools.

“The society was con­ceived out of a desire to cul­tivate a stronger alumni network,” she said.

On average, only 12 percent of alumni donate to Hillsdale — a number McGinness said she’d like to improve.

Cur­rently the society has 20 founding members, all of whom were rec­om­mended by Hillsdale College faculty and staff and applied to become involved. Stu­dents who wish to become members now don’t have to apply; they just have to pay $18.44 per semester and then $184.40 within three years of grad­u­ation.

Members will receive perks, which will increase the longer a student is in the society.

“We hope to have some exclusive events and swag items; we’re working on grad­u­ation cords,” McGinness said. “There’s some benefit to mem­bership, as well, because we’re trying to connect our alumni with this group in par­ticular, so that would give them more oppor­tu­nities to network and know alum.”

McGinness empha­sized that giving out of grat­itude is an important element of the society.

Stu­dents can des­ignate their $18.44 to par­ticular pro­grams or let it go by default into the Ransom Dunn schol­arship fund, which sup­ports stu­dents who encounter unex­pected financial troubles during their Hillsdale career. The society’s pres­ident, senior Randy Keefe, said he gave his pro­ceeds to the Wash­ington-Hillsdale Internship Program.

“The whole purpose of the 1844 Society is really to cul­tivate an attitude of grate­fulness on this campus,” Keefe said. “We’re also going to be looking at ways to keep the Hillsdale com­munity going beyond being at Hillsdale.”

The society’s vice pres­ident, senior Sydney Delp, agreed: “We’re trying to establish a habit of giving with stu­dents and make that habit con­tinue past grad­u­ation.”

McGinness empha­sized that she wants to promote grat­itude for the private donorship that makes Hillsdale affordable — to educate one student, it costs $66,000 per year, though the college charges only $34,352.

“The desire is to help stu­dents under­stand not just the mission and phi­losophy of Hillsdale but also the financial story of Hillsdale because everyone who attends here goes here on a major dis­count,” McGinness said.

In addition to the dis­counted tuition rate, approx­i­mately 92 percent of stu­dents receive schol­ar­ships and financial aid, all of which are sup­ported pri­vately.

“Those numbers are helpful in helping stu­dents under­stand the gift that they’re given here,” McGinness said.

McGinness hopes that stu­dents will graduate with greater appre­ci­ation for Hillsdale and give back to the school — finan­cially or with their time — as alumni.

“We want stu­dents to feel that they are a big and critical part of the mission that we’re trying to accom­plish and then want to carry that on as alumni out in the world,” McGinness said.

The society held two events this week. A Legacy Dinner on Monday, Feb. 15 for juniors and seniors fea­tured speeches from Pres­ident Larry Arnn, Pro­fessor of History Thomas Conner, and senior Danny Drummond. On Tuesday, Feb. 16, the society held a “Love the Dale” cam­paign in the Grewcock Student Union, where stu­dents filled out cards describing some­thing they love about Hillsdale.

Keefe said they’re looking for as many stu­dents to join as pos­sible.

“Mem­bership is not some­thing that has to be limited,” Keefe said. “Everyone can give back. Everyone has a unique expe­rience that they’re grateful for here.”