University Of Michigan Launches $4-Billion Campaign

The arms race of higher education fundraising continues unabated. The University of Michigan has launched a $4-billion fundraising campaign, the largest in the history of a public institute of higher education.

The public phase of the Victors for Michigan campaign launched Nov. 8 with a goal for completion by the end of 2018. The university already has raised $1.7 billion in a silent phase that began in July 2011. Michigan aims to raise another $2.3 billion in the next five years.

It’s the sixth fundraising campaign for the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based school, roughly an hour’s drive from bankrupt Detroit. The most recent effort, the Michigan Difference campaign, raised $3.2 billion from 2000 to 2008, surpassing the original $2.5-billion goal. Michigan’s first billion-dollar campaign was launched in 1991 and completed in 1997 after raising $1.4 billion.

Three priorities of the latest campaign are student support, engaged learning, and bold ideas. Some $1 billion will be raised for student support “so that every student accepted by the university can afford to attend, so that the university can attract students who can compete at the highest level, and so that every student can have an outstanding student experience.” The two other priorities do not have financial goals associated with them.

Michigan’s largest donor, Stephen M. Ross, will serve as campaign chairman. Ross is chairman and majority owner of The Related Companies, a real estate development firm, and also co-owner of the Miami Dolphins. He also served as co-chair of the fundraising campaign that was completed in May 2007. Ross’ lifetime contributions to the school total more than $300 million. He donated $100 million to the university – the single largest contribution to the school – in 2004, for which the Ross School of Business was named in his honor. Ross committed another $200 million this year to be split between the business school and athletic department.

The University of Michigan last year raised $291 million and $270 million the previous year, according to the Council for Aid To Education’s (CAE) annual Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) survey.

In September, Harvard University launched a five-year, $6.5-billion campaign, which would be the largest ever for an institution of higher education. Unlike Michigan, it’s a private university. The endeavor would double Harvard’s last capital campaign, which ended in 1999 and raised $2.6 billion. Harvard had raised the first $2.8 billion during a two-year silent phase. Stanford University raised $6.2 billion for a campaign from 2006 to 2011. In 2012, the Palo Alto, Calif., school became the first university to raise $1 billion in a single year.