As graduation day approaches and the Class of 2012 prepares to don the cap and gown and claim our diplomas, it becomes time to evaluate how truly valuable an Elon education is.

Don’t worry if that thought hasn’t popped into your head yet. It will soon enough. That’s because, like at practically any university in the country, it won’t be long after our college days are behind us before we get a phone call or an email asking us to donate to the school that over the previous four years helped shape the direction our lives have taken and will take into the future.

Unfortunately it’s not the best timing for these calls. We’re in a time of great economic uncertainty. Many of us haven’t found jobs yet and even more have thousands of dollars in unpaid student loans. It simply is not in most students’ budgets to donate a significant amount of money to Elon at this time.

That’s not to put the school at fault, per se. It’s obvious why they do this. First off, it’s pretty much the status quo. It would be odd for a school not to at least put the thought of giving back in a former student’s head.

Secondly, the school needs money. To keep the university running, the endowment needs to grow at a pace proportionate to the student population growth. It all makes perfect sense when you think about it. Without gifts from donors, the school has to hike tuition rates for future generations. When that happens, the pool of talented students willing to apply to Elon drops significantly. The goal of any institution should be to attract the best applicant pool. It’s logical, but it’s still depressing.

Depressing on many levels. Firstly, these calls remind us that our time at Elon is growing short. This is where the majority of us truly grew up. We picked our majors, then changed our minds and adopted new plans, eager to find enlightenment in our future endeavors. There have been countless memories that we’ll treasure for the rest of our lives. College has been a time that, for better or worse, will remain a part of our lives for years down the road.

But, these calls also remind us that at the end of the day it’s all about money. Elon wants us to succeed, sure. It looks good on a pamphlet. But they also want to be able to add new facilities to make Elon an even better place for future students. Unfortunately, we just can’t afford it right now.

That is why the school should refrain from requesting donations until at least five years after a student graduates. That gives ample time for us to not only find our first entry-level jobs — it also gives us time to either get a promotion at that job or take a different, better, higher-paying position elsewhere.

This solution will be better for all parties. The administration wouldn’t insult any fresh graduates by asking for money after already receiving hundreds of thousands of tuition dollars over the last four years. As former students, we’d have time to breathe for a little bit before catching up with a proverbial old friend — albeit one that asks for our money.

At the end of the day, all we want is respect. We know a diploma from Elon is invaluable and we hope other students will have similar — heck, better — experiences than we did. And we understand a big endowment goes a long way to accomplishing this.

All we ask Elon is to give us time to get our finances straight.