- Flagship state colleges are raising record amounts through expanding development offices, according to The Wall Street Journal, a trend most recently evident with the University of Michigan's record $5 billion campaign.
- Other institutions are expected to reach or near that sum: The University of Washington has a $5 billion campaign in the works; the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is attempting to raise $4.25 billion; the University of Florida is seeking to raise $3 billion; and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is hoping to bring in $2.25 billion.
- Michigan's campaign is carried out by 550 development staff and 1,600 fundraising volunteers. The campaign, which began in 2011 and included four gifts of $100 million or more, will contribute $1.1 billion to student scholarships.
Fundraising also has increased at elite private universities, which have reported record-breaking campaigns recently. Harvard University just finished a campaign that brought in $9.6 billion — more than $3 billion over its goal and well beyond any amount raised by a college yet.
Gifts to all colleges and universities increased 6% from 2016 to $43.6 billion in 2017, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the largest amount raised since the annual survey began in 1957. One-quarter of those funds came from the top 20 fundraising institutions of 3,700 surveyed. Several public research universities were among the top 20, including the University of Michigan, as well as the University of Washington, Ohio State University, Indiana University and the University of California, Los Angeles and Berkeley.
The increased focus on gifts at flagship state colleges evidenced by the University of Michigan's latest campaign comes as state funds have largely failed to return to pre-recession levels, even as most states' revenues have recovered. A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities showed that states were spending on average 16% less per student — or about $1,502 — in 2018 compared to 2008, and that per-student spending was down by more than 30% in nine states during the period.
Along with donors contributing more, the Journal reported earlier this year, students attending public colleges in more than half of U.S. states are paying more in tuition than the government spends per student.
Smaller public and private schools are trying to increase fundraising, but the state funding squeeze and declining enrollments have tightened institutional budgets and in some cases caused them to close, merge or share resources.