Young philanthropy: UT student starts fund to help her classmates

Katherine Kligerman

An undergraduate student at the UT School of Architecture, Katherine Kligerman, is creating an endowed fund to help her fellow classmates afford supplies, tools, and technology. With tuition at the school ranging around $27,000 a year and supplies adding thousands more, many students find themselves struggling to cover the costs. 

“Initially I entered the major not really knowing how expensive it was going to be,” said  Kilgerman, a senior at the school studying interior design. Kligerman says she started the fund because she saw the toll from coursework and debt was having an effect on her classmates’ mental health. “Having to deal with those issues just out of high school can be too much. I just want to be able to help as much as I can.”

In 2018, the promising interior design student won a prestigious Angleo Donghia Senior Scholarship in Interior Design for a project from her portfolio. The honor came with a $30,000 prize. “It was really amazing,” she said, “but I knew I didn’t need it as much as other students. And I wanted to donate it to the architecture school so they could use that money and decide to give it to whomever needed it most.” When she informed the school of her wish to donate $15,000 for a fund, they told her that with $10,000 more she could create an endowed fund, which allows fund holders to invest the principal and use income from the investment for charitable purposes in perpetuity. So she set off to raise an additional $10,000.

It’s unusual for a student to create a fund for other students, much less an endowed fund. But Charlton Lewis, assistant dean for student affairs said, “It can be pretty easy to underestimate them. But because of the capabilities of our students and the dedication and passion they have, it’s not surprising that one would do something like this.” Lewis says the school works to make materials and tools readily available for students, and has set up programs like a material exchange to help students cover the costs of creating expensive models. But architecture-school students need access to computers, software, laser cutters, 3D printers, and more. “This is not an inexpensive education,” he said.  

To reach her goal, Kligerman set up a fundraising campaign last month on the university’s “Hornraiser” online platform. She wanted to surpass the $10,000 mark and had done so within the first few weeks of her effort. “Anyone can contribute,” she said. “It’s really amazing the amount of people who’ve been helping.” Kligerman says she’s driven to address the student loan debt her classmates build up, and understands how they might take it on in order to complete their degrees. “I want to help them focus on their dreams rather than stress about the amount it costs to get there,” she said. 

Lewis, who is also an alumni of the school and a senior lecturer who taught Kligerman in her first year, says he wonders if he would have thought to do something like this when he was a student. “But I think students don’t see the boundaries we used to see,” he said. “They think bigger.” 

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