Stanford, the Parents’ Program and you

Jane Harrison
Jane Harrison

Each year, thousands of parents and guardians get involved at Stanford as donors and volunteers. Jane Harrison, director of the Stanford Parents’ Program, explains why Stanford hopes you will be among them.

What is the Stanford Parents’ Program and how do parents and guardians get involved?

The mission of the Stanford Parents’ Program is to help engage parents and guardians as donors and volunteers. Whether you live across the street from campus or across the globe, there are many ways to get involved.

Last year, about 4,000 parents or guardians made gifts through The Stanford Fund for Undergraduate Education, the university’s annual fund that is only used to support students. These gifts benefit nearly every student on campus in some way—whether it’s through financial aid, innovative academic programs or funding for student-run groups.

Stanford parents and guardians are also extremely generous with their time and talent. Some host Stanford gatherings at their home or workplace. Others become involved through the Stanford Alumni Association, which is open to both alumni and non-alumni parents and guardians. A separate organization called the Stanford Parents’ Club hosts lectures and hospitality events.

Why does Stanford ask for gifts when parents and guardians are already paying for tuition?

Tuition covers only about two-thirds of the real cost of an undergraduate education at Stanford. Even parents and guardians who pay “full price” are benefiting from the generosity of the Stanford community. All gifts made through The Stanford Fund support students and enrich the undergraduate experience.

About 70 percent of all gifts through The Stanford Fund go toward financial aid. Nearly two-thirds of the remaining funds support academic programs like freshman and sophomore seminars, research opportunities, public service projects and student campus resources.

The rest of Stanford Fund dollars go toward more than 100 student-run groups on campus. This funding can be used by a dance group trying to buy new costumes, for instance, or an intramural rugby team that needs to travel to a game. There’s a student group for nearly every imaginable interest, and a gift that might seem modest to you can make a big difference for those students.

Given the size of Stanford’s endowment, does Stanford really need more money?

Parents and guardians sometimes ask why Stanford can’t use more of its endowment. Stanford’s endowment needs to last not just 20 or 30 years, but in perpetuity—and if the payout were set too high, it would quickly run out. It’s also important to understand that many gifts of endowment are restricted to specific purposes.

In contrast, gifts made through The Stanford Fund give the university the flexibility to meet immediate needs and address evolving priorities, which makes even small gifts extremely valuable to the university.

You are the parent of two college students yourself. What’s the best advice you can give to others?

Encourage your students to try new things and take advantage of the many opportunities on campus, both academic and non-academic. Student-run organizations and activities can help them find a sense of community and develop leadership skills. But know that more often than not, the best thing we can do as parents and guardians is to stand back and let our children find their own paths.

To learn more about the Stanford Parents’ Program and ways to support students, visit or email