As government funding for the nation’s colleges dwindle due to budget cuts and a sputtering economy, private donations to higher education have increased.
Donations to colleges and universities increased by 8.2% during 2011 for a total of $30.3 billion; according to a February report from the Council for Aid to Education.
Donations for endowments and buildings increased by 13.6% while donations for ongoing school programs increased 4.7%, according to the study.
Stanford University topped the list, raising approximately $709 million, while Harvard University and Yale University placed second and third.
The University of California Berkeley, ranked number 18, is currently working on their campaign called the Campaign for Berkeley with a goal of raising $3 billion by the end of 2013.
“Private philanthropy will be critical, not to the survival of Berkeley, but to the continued excellence and ranking of the college,” said David Blinder, associate vice chancellor for UC Berkeley.
Stanford recently completed a five-year fundraising effort dubbed The Stanford Challenge in which they raised $6.2 billion, which will go to fund faculty appointments, scholarships, new buildings as well as grant and fellowship opportunities.
“The Stanford Challenge has transformed the way our faculty and students work,” said John L. Hennessy, college president, in a press release. “This kind of collaboration has enabled Stanford to assume a larger role in addressing global problems.”
Donations by alumni increased by almost 10% during 2011.
Baylor University recently received the largest donation in its history from Drayton McLane Jr. to help build their first on campus stadium.
Baylor, currently the only school in the Big 12 Conference that doesn’t have an on-campus stadium, hopes to complete construction of the $250 million project by the 2014 football season.
Four-year colleges and universities aren’t the only schools raising funds through private donations.
Community colleges are now also approaching outside donors for funding, according to Davia Solomon, recent interim director for the Pierce Foundation.
In previous years community colleges were funded almost entirely through state and federal funds and required little outside assistance, but this situation has changed.
California alone has cut more than $800 million from its community college budget since 2008.
In light of the ongoing crisis, the Foundation for Pierce College, which supports Los Angeles Pierce College is currently creating a five-year plan to entice private donors.
“Most of the donations we’re getting now are for supplies,” said Solomon. “People are donating for specific programs.”
With the college facing a worst-case scenario in which it will be forced to cut all non-essential and non-safety related services — as well as an additional 7% course reduction — the foundation is increasingly reaching out to alumni for support.
“$10,000 at Pierce makes a tremendous difference,” said Solomon. “While $10,000 at UCLA could get lost in the crowd.”
The increase in donations mirrors the economic rebound and goes a long way to restoring the historic level of giving reached in 2008.
“To keep the university strong we need to rely much more on support from our friends and alumni,” said Blinder. “It’s become much more urgent for us because in the past five years we’ve seen a disinvestments from the state.”
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