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Higher Ed Giving Hits Record $40.3 Billion

By Andy Segedin - January 27, 2016

Charitable contributions to American colleges and universities reached $40.3 billion during 2015, a 7.6 percent increase compared to $37.45 billion for 2014. The total is the highest in the history of Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) survey conducted by the Council for Aid to Education (CAE), which began in 1957.

The top 20 fundraising institutions raised 28.7 percent of all gifts, $11.56 billion, according to CAE. Stanford University led the way with $1.63 billion raised, followed by Harvard University at $1.05 billion. The top 20 were:

  1. Stanford University – $1.63 billion
  2. Harvard University – $1.05 billion
  3. University of Southern California – $653.03 million
  4. University of California – San Francisco – $608.58 million
  5. Cornell University – $590.64 million
  6. Johns Hopkins University – $582.68 million
  7. Columbia University – $552.68 million
  8. Princeton University $549.84 million
  9. Northwestern University – $536.83 million
  10. University of Pennsylvania – $517.20 million
  11. University of California – Los Angeles – $473.21 million
  12. Duke University – $472.01 million
  13. University of Washington – $447.02 million
  14. University of Chicago – $443.79 million
  15. Yale University – $440.81 million
  16. New York University – $439.66 million
  17. Massachusetts Institute of Technology – $439.40 million
  18. University of Michigan – $394.31 million
  19. University of Notre Dame – $379.87 million
  20. University of California – Berkley – $366.12 million

Contributions earmarked for current operations carried the overall increase, with $24.65 billion targeted for that purpose, an increase of $2.85 billion compared to 2014. Donations for capital purposes remained flat from 2014 to 2015 at $15.65 billion.

Donation totals increased across most sources, including foundations, the largest contributor, which drove $11.6 billion in donations in 2015, up from $11.2 billion in 2014. Individual support from alumni and non-alumni similarly increased from $9.85 billion and $6.5 billion, respectively, in 2014 to $10.85 billion and $8 billion in 2015. Corporate support stayed flat at $5.75 billion.

The 10.2 percent increase in alumni contributions came despite a decrease in alumni participation driven by a 3.4 percent increase in the number of alumni on record. “Participation will only increase if the number of donors rises more than the number of located alumni,” explained Ann E. Kaplan, VSE survey director. “This is unlikely in a technological age in which individuals may have multiple means of contact that make them easy to locate. Finding an address is much simpler than cultivating a relationship that leads to a contribution.”

National economic expansion and the performance of the stock market will likely play a strong factor in whether contributions increase again in 2016, the release stated. More than one-third of the contributions made to a given institution, on average, come from twelve large gifts. Such gifts are often in the form of appreciated securities, their value tied to the stock market.

Extremely large gifts increased in 2015. Eight gifts of $100 million or more made up $1.44 billion of the total, according to the release. The combined value of the donations was greater than the combined funds raised by the list’s bottom 490 institutions. Five gifts of $100 million or greater were recorded in 2014, totaling $698.55 million.


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