August 26, 2010; Source: Associated Press | Colleges and universities are no longer waiting for their students to graduate and become alumni before turning them into givers. A growing number of schools are starting the courting practice during students’ freshman year.

Some take a modest approach, such as handing out piggy banks to collect spare change. But others, such as the University of Pennsylvania are more aggressive. The university has developed a four-year program that, according to the Associated Press, teaches “students the value of philanthropy as a civic virtue as well as the nuances of higher education funding.”

Elise Betz, executive director of alumni relations, says the school is “unapologetically laying out expectations for their relationship with Penn. Before our students enter a classroom, they are given this message.” University of Michigan officials are so eager to start the cultivation process they don’t even wait until orientation. During campus tours, prospective Wolverines learn about the importance of private giving to keep the school strong and vital.

Part of the effort is to dispel the notion that state schools are funded exclusively with public dollars. The AP reports that, “state support of the school’s core academic functions hovers near 20 percent—nearly one-fourth the level of support provided by Michigan to its flagship university 50 years ago.”

Do these efforts work? For Penn, the answer is a resounding yes. In 2009, participation in Penn’s senior gift drive jumped to 71 percent from 18 percent in 2001—an amount nearly double the school’s alumni-giving rate. Let’s just hope that schools don’t get carried away and start asking on their applications how much they intend to give back if admitted.—Bruce Trachtenberg