Growing Trend Among Top Universities: Private Fundraising

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From the years 2013-2018, Harvard University raised $9.6 billion from private donors alone, crushing the previous record of $6.2 billion (held by fellow private school Stanford University). This is an unprecedented raise of capital, with $1.3 billion directed to funding financial aid for the institution. However, Harvard is one of the most celebrated and recognizable universities in the world, let alone the United States. Is this extraordinary generosity true of all higher-education institutions? 

According to the Voluntary Support for Education survey, published by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), private donations to colleges and universities in the US increased by 7.2% in 2018, totaling a whopping $46.73 billion for the year. Over $12 billion of the donations are from alumni, $8.5 from non-alumni individuals, and foundations bringing in the most at $14 billion. From 2016-2018, nearly 60% of Princeton alumni gave back to their alma mater, indicating an increased interest from Ivy League graduates to share their success with the schools that led them to it.

However, there are more than just household-name institutions joining the ranks of Harvard and Stanford in the search for more capital. St. John’s College, a private university with two campuses, seeks to reduce students’ yearly tuition cost by $17,000 through a $300 million fundraising campaign. As smaller schools like St. John’s struggle to attract new students, whether in-person or online, tuition-cutting programs and initiatives such as this serve to entice potential enrollments (and eventual donors). 

Private donations and endowments are critical to keeping the higher-education system afloat – whether that entails the institutions themselves, university-run research centers and hospitals, or financial aid for low-income students. As long as colleges are foundations of learning and innovation, they will require additional help from the generosity of others.

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