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Now that's cradle-to-grave marketing

The Chapman University Columbarium, designed by artist Susan Narduli, features sculpted walls of sky blue marble that 'embrace a reverent space open to the heavens.'

TEXT OF STORY

Doug Krizner: If your college years were the best years of your life, this one's for you. A growing number of schools want to let you live on campus. . . for eternity. After you die, that is. And as Jeremy Hobson reports, having an eternal connection with an alum can be a powerful fundraising tool.


Jeremy Hobson: Chapman University in Orange, California.

There's a new feature on campus. Water glints in the sunlight and tumbles down a 16-foot wall.Just yards away four marble walls of the same height are checkered with what are called "niches."

You can stand and admire it — or you can have it as your final resting place.

Many already have. Mel Malkoff was contracted by the university to oversee sales and marketing.

Mel Malkoff: We have about 25 or 26 sales, of which only about two-thirds of those have remains placed in them. The others have been purchased pre-need so that they're set aside for people. Thankfully for them they're not using them yet.

If and when they do, it won't come cheap.

Malkoff: At the Heart and Hand level where you can see and touch the stone, these are $5,000. And toward the top, it's $2,500.

Malkoff says those prices do bring in a small profit, but University officials don't highlight that side of it.

Mary Platt is Chapman's communications director.

Mary Platt: We look at certain things as being friend-raising instead of fundraising.

Despite the occasional construction work disturbing the peace at the columbarium, those friends may decide to contribute extra to the college where their cremated remains will be kept.

And alumni donations can add up to nearly a quarter of a university's budget. That's according to John Lippincott, President of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. He says universities fully understand the importance of a cradle-to-grave relationship with alums.

John Lippincott: If you go into a college bookstore, more likely than not, you'll find infant clothes with the college logo, which takes care of the cradle part of the equation. And we are seeing institutions now understanding that they can also provide the grave part of that equation.

It's catching on.

Schools from Virginia to Indiana are setting up dorms for the dead, but it's all a bit much for Jennifer Wiegert, who studied at Chapman University until last month.

Jennifer Wiegert: I've graduated. I don't really want to spend more time here.

I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.
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