Imagine buying a new Toyota Corolla each year for the next four years.
That’s how much it costs to finance a college education today.
That’s no surprise to accountancy major Jocelyn Lombardozzi, who pays as much for books each year as her fellow Huskies paid for room, board, tuition and books combined in the ’60s.
Nationwide, college students feel the pinch as state funding plummets and the cost of a degree increases far faster than inflation and the average income.
The estimated cost for the 2011 academic year at NIU is more than $24,000.
College costs are a monumental obstacle, and alumni such as Dean DuCray are taking notice. To help, he and his wife, Brenda, made the first $1 million pledge to the Department of Accountancy.
“I grew up poor and had to work my way through school,” DuCray says. “But back then, tuition was about $129 a semester. I could pump gas and stack books in the library and pay my bill in full. For kids these days, that’s not possible.”
NIU Foundation board member John Landgraf (B.S. ’74, M.S. ’75) agrees. “I hear people say that they put themselves through school and that kids today should do the same. The problem is: they can’t.”
Other alumni like Landgraf applaud the DuCrays for their generosity.
“The audience gasped when I announced the gift,” says Department of Accountancy chair Jim Young. “Then, we got a standing ovation.”
The DuCray Excellence Fund supports every aspect of the accountancy program, Young adds.
“It will help us endow our existing alumni professorship, provide desperately needed scholarships for our students, and provide funding for strategic initiatives. If faculty members need to attend a research conference, the gift will help. If faculty or students need a data set to analyze, we can buy it,” he says. “We have one of the best programs in the nation, and alumni like Dean DuCray help keep it that way.”
The DuCrays are encouraging other accountancy alumni to follow suit by matching their gifts, dollar for dollar, and several already have responded. “The DuCray Challenge has inspired several $1,000 gifts and new endowments,” says Anthony D’Andrea, director of development for the NIU College of Business.
Ultimately, the DuCrays’ generosity will increase the department’s endowment by $1.5 million.
DuCray has come a long way since his days stacking books at the library.
After graduation, he began his career at Haskins & Sells. Later, as president and CEO of Technical Oil Tool Corporation, he led the company to record growth. In 1998, he retired as vice president and CFO of York International.
A successful businesswoman herself, Brenda DuCray has owned and operated several retail and real estate companies.
“Brenda is not only Dean’s partner in marriage, she’s his partner in philanthropy,” says D’Andrea. “She designated the Department of Accountancy as the beneficiary of her IRA, and she isn’t even an alumna herself. We were very touched.”
The DuCrays say they give because they’re grateful for the education Dean received at NIU. “I could compete with the ‘big boys’ right out of the gate, and for that, I am forever grateful,” he says.
For more information about the DuCray Challenge, call D’Andrea at (815) 753-1736.