Hamline University has long been the disadvantaged sister of St. Paul's private colleges. It sits in down-on-its-luck Midway, competing against the academic prestige of Macalester and the formidable pocketbook of St. Thomas, both of which luxuriate in much fancier neighborhoods.
So it's hoping to do something about it with a $110 million fundraising campaign. And in a strikingly honest bout of salesmanship, its price list lays bare how you—yes, you—can buy your way into prominence at a modern university.
Unfortunately, you'll need cash. Hamline's cheapest vanity donation comes in at $100,000, which will land a faculty office in your name. This may require a second mortgage, but at least you'll be able to claim dominion over the Bud and Tina Waldemeyer Room situated down a corridor in the English Department.
If you really want to overextend your credit, you can have a pool or classroom named in your honor for $1 million. Even better would be the Jimmy Bjornquist School of Business or the Candi Kapler School of Education. The naming rights to either graduate school can be yours for $25 million.
For institutions of truth and higher thought, it can appear rather unseemly to sell oneself to the highest bidder like this. Especially when such honors have a tendency to disappear when a bigger checkbook comes along. After 3M ponied up major coin, the University of Minnesota decided that Mariucci Arena would sound much cooler if it was called 3M Arena at Mariucci, with the latter part in smaller print.
Then again, schools have little choice if they hope to survive. Hamline has just 3,400 students. Its enrollment has declined by 23 percent in the past five years, though that's in part due to a law school merger with William Mitchell. Throw in soaring tuition rates, fattened administrative rosters, and Minnesota's middling interest in higher education—we rank 23rd among states in per capita funding—and you're forced to get creative.
Hamline isn't the only one taking a pounding. Schools from Bethel to Winona State have suffered double-digit enrollment declines since 2014. St. Cloud State is down 3,000 students.
So if you someday find yourself with an MBA from the Kris Lindahl School of Business, you'll know why.