While charitable contributions to colleges and universities in the United States increased by 6.2 percent in 2008, reaching $31.6 billion — compared to an average increase over the past decade of 5.7 percent — overall giving to the majority of institutions actually decreased, a new report from the Council for Aid to Education finds.
Based on the results of the latest Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) survey, the report found that the twenty institutions which raised the most in 2008 received a total of $8.4 billion — $745 million more than was raised by the top twenty institutions in 2007. Once again, Stanford University topped the list, raising $785 million, followed by Harvard ($651 million), Columbia ($495 million), Yale ($487 million), and the University of Pennsylvania ($476 million). Also making the top ten were the University of California, Los Angeles ($457 million), Johns Hopkins University ($449 million), the University of Wisconsin-Madison ($410 million), Cornell University ($409 million), and the University of Southern California ($409 million).
Although they represented only 1.9 percent of the 1,052 institutions in the survey, the top twenty institutions accounted for 26.6 percent of all gifts to higher education in 2008. Indeed, the increase in gifts to the top twenty accounted for 46.9 percent of the increase nationally; contributions to the rest of the institutions in the survey declined by an average of 4.2 percent. Moreover, many of the institutions posting double-digit percentage increases were completing capital campaigns in 2007 and 2008, which meant that many of the gifts reported in the survey were received at the end of 2007.
According to VSE survey director Ann E. Kaplan, next year's survey could show a lower level of giving. "Even at institutions that reported healthy gains in fiscal [year] 2008, advancement professionals told us they had 'hit a wall' in January 2009 and that the decline was substantial," Kaplan said. "Both the number and value of contributions dropped early in the calendar year."