Meet the top 10 colleges with the most grateful grads

Happy and successful alumni don't just have high-paying careers—they also give back, argue Sarah Hansen and Matt Schifrin in Forbes.

According to Hansen and Schifrin, measuring a college's ROI against only employment and salary metrics fails to capture a critical feature of excellent colleges: alumni donations.

To measure this type of ROI, Forbes created the Grateful Graduates Index. The index ranks private not-for-profit colleges with more than 500 students by best return on investment, as measured by the average percentage of graduates who donated in the last three years and the median amount donated per student across the last seven years.

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Here are the top 10 colleges with the most grateful grads, according to Forbes:

1. Dartmouth College
2. Williams College
3. Princeton University*
4. Amherst College
5. Davidson College
6. Claremont McKenna College
7. Haverford College
8. Wellesley College*
9. Wabash College
10. University of Notre Dame*

*Editor's note: EAB congratulates our member institutions for their rankings on Forbes' list. Member institutions listed below have been marked with an *asterisk.

With the index, Forbes aims to level the playing field between smaller liberal arts colleges and larger STEM-focused universities, write Hansen and Schifrin. Larger universities tend to graduate students who land high-paying jobs in tech or finance, while smaller schools produce students who tend to earn less, but may be happier.

Dartmouth College, for example, beat out larger universities to snag the top spot for the second year in a row. Dartmouth has a median seven-year donation of $24,000 and an average participation rate of 41%, according to the index. Larger schools might have more donations in terms of total dollars, but rank lower on the index due to lower alumni participation rates, write Hansen and Schifrin.

Alumni giving may decline overall across the next few years due to a new tax rules about itemizing and charitable tax deductions, predicts Brian Flahaven, the senior director for advocacy at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. These new tax rules will disproportionately affect younger alumni who tend to give small- to mid-size donations, he adds. "That pipeline of new younger donors is really what we're most concerned about," he told Forbes.

Megan Morey, the vice president for college relations at Williams College, says she has already seen dip in donations from younger alumni. In response, Williams is developing new methods to encourage engagement among recent graduates, such as matching volunteer hours to dollar donations. "We're working very hard to reverse that trend in alumni giving," she says (Hansen/Schifrin, Forbes, 8/21).

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