Does Distance Make the Heart Grow Fonder? A Case Study of Online Bachelor's Degree Graduates and their Willingness to Donate to their Alma Mater
MetadataShow full item record
This qualitative case study examined graduates of an online bachelor’s degree program from a large, non-profit, state funded, four-year University in the Southwestern United States and gauged their willingness to donate to their alma mater. Currently, online education represents one of the fastest growing segments within higher education in the United States. While this method of educational delivery is increasing access and bolstering enrollments, little is known about the long-term effects this type of educational offering will have on colleges and universities. It is well documented that one of the strongest motivations, among alumni who donate to their respective college or university, resides in their involvement and level of engagement with their college or university during their time as a student. However, online degree programs, specifically online bachelor's degree programs, offer little, if any, incentive or opportunity for students to become involved with the institution. Given this predicament, this study attempted to ascertain if online education might be helping colleges and universities in the short-term, at the expense of damaging potentially meaningful and profitable relationships with these alumni in the long run. The intent of this study was to examine a particular set of graduates from the same online bachelor's degree program and assess, through personal interviews, their willingness to donate to their alma mater. The participant responses were analyzed utilizing the theoretical framework of Social Identity Theory. Three themes arose from this study: (1) appreciation, obligation and university reputation influence a willingness to donate, (2) lack of unique experiences impacts association and donations, and (3) negative perceptions of for-profit universities impact their association with their alma mater. While most of the participants responded that they were willing to donate to their alma mater and did associate themselves with the institution from which they received their online bachelor’s degree, their association lacked the strength necessary to develop into actual donations. Therefore, the participant’s association with their alma mater appeared strong, but not strong enough for them to engage in the acts, such as donating, that those with a more robust association to their alma mater possess.
Turner, Joel L (2015). Does Distance Make the Heart Grow Fonder? A Case Study of Online Bachelor's Degree Graduates and their Willingness to Donate to their Alma Mater. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from