What have you done for FAMU lately?

Amid the festivities and social events that occur during Homecoming, this year FAMU will honor 40 former students at the Young Alumni Awards: A 40/40 Celebration.

Among the exceptional honorees being recognized is Chicago native, Lonnie Rashied Lynn, Jr., better known by his stage name: Common.

A FAMU alumnus and Grammy Award-winner, Common has become a notable figure in entertainment. He has topped the charts as one of Chicago’s most articulate lyricists and has even become a familiar face on the big screen. Common made his acting debut in the action film “Smokin’ Aces” and most recently landed his first leading role in the romantic comedy “Just Wright.”

With a substantial resume, Common’s net worth has exceeded the million-dollar mark. According to Forbes’ list of Hip Hop’s Top 20 Earners of 2010, Common has racked up an annual income of $7 million.

As a distinguished alumnus of FAMU, is it expected of him to contribute financially to his alma mater? And if so, with an annual revenue as large as Common’s, how much does he give back?

Efforts were made to obtain records from the National Alumni Association regarding Common’s contributions, but access to this information is prohibited. The alum must personally request information on their donations to FAMU. No answer was given as to why this is so.

As many historically black colleges are facing financial constraints, the support from alumni plays a significant role in the survival of these institutions of higher learning.

In April, Common was a featured artist alongside singer Trey Songz and rapper Fabolous at FAMU’s Haiti Relief Concert. In many respects these artists rallied together for a common cause, but there was a heavy cost for booking these performers. If not in the form of donations, could Common’s involvement in the concert be his contribution to FAMU?

Graduates and former students who have attended FAMU are products of timeless education from professors and are investments to the college. To show their appreciation, it is only reasonable that alumni give back to their alma mater.

Contributions made by alumni ensure that current and prospective students have opportunities to be successful post-graduation. In addition, alumni support determines the quality of education that is provided at colleges and universities. If there is a lack of support from alumni, the reputation of the school faces criticism.

In order to increase the participation rates of alumni, institutions of higher learning must build lasting relationships with their alumni. Otherwise, alumni feel detached from their alma maters, which decreases the chances of donations.

Despite financial turmoil, the act of giving opens the doors for students. Donations are not the only form of alumni contributions. Colleges and universities can reap the benefits of those who maintain an active role in their school after graduation.