Giving to Colleges, Universities Essentially Flat in 2012, Survey Finds

Giving to U.S. colleges and universities rose 2.3 percent, to $31 billion, in 2012, slightly below the annual Voluntary Support of Education survey's historical high of $31.6 billion in 2008, a new report from the Council for Aid to Education finds. Adjusted for inflation, giving to institutions of higher education remained virtually unchanged on a year-over-year basis, rising a mere 0.2 percent.

According to the 2012 VSE survey, 52.8 percent of the institutions that responded to the survey raised at least as much in 2012 as they did in 2011, while 47.2 percent reported a drop in giving. Topping the list of institutions that raised the most for the eighth year in a row was Stanford University, which received $1.03 billion in gifts, becoming the first university in the United States to raise more than $1 billion in a single year. The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, a specialized health institution, topped the list of institutions that raised the most per student, at $590,719, while Stanford placed fifth on the list, raising $55,745 per student.

Foundation giving accounted for the largest portion of contributions (29.5 percent) reported, followed by alumni giving (24.8 percent), non-alumni giving (18.8 percent), corporate gifts (16.9 percent), other organizations (9.0 percent), and religious groups (0.9 percent). While gifts from foundations and corporate contributions increased 5.5 percent and 4.6 percent on a year-over-year basis, giving by alumni fell 1.3 percent, due in part to declines in both the average gift amount for capital purposes and in participation by alumni. The survey also found that gifts for current operations rose 6.2 percent — the main factor behind the modest increase in overall giving — while gifts for capital purposes such as endowments and buildings fell 3.2 percent.

"At the time of this release, the signs are positive for 2013," said VSE survey director Ann E. Kaplan. "However, no one knows precisely how strong the economy will be in June, when universities make their fiscal year-end appeals. And many other factors matter, including tax legislation, the incidence and value of major gifts, and the cases individual institutions advance for support."

"Colleges and Universities Raise $31 Billion in 2012" Council for Aid to Education Press Release 02/20/2013.