U.S. Colleges, Universities Raised $49.6 Billion in 2019, Survey Finds

U.S. Colleges, Universities Raised $49.6 Billion in 2019, Survey Finds

Contributions to U.S. colleges and universities reached a record $49.6 billion in fiscal year 2019, an increase of 3.6 percent on a year-over-year inflation-adjusted basis, the Voluntary Support of Education survey of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education finds.

Based on responses from more than nine hundred colleges and universities, the survey (summary, 11 pages, PDF) found that total estimated giving to U.S. institutions of higher education increased for the tenth consecutive year for the fiscal year ending June 30, although at a slower rate than the 4.6 percent increase registered in FY18. The survey also found that while contributions from foundations (18.4 percent) and donor-advised funds (16.7 percent) jumped in 2019, giving by individuals fell.

According to the report, foundation giving accounted for the largest share (34.3 percent) of total dollars raised in FY19, with the increase due largely to a single gift of $1.2 billion from Bloomberg Philanthropies to Johns Hopkins University, part of an $1.8 billion commitment by Michael R. Bloomberg to his alma mater announced in November 2018. The report also suggests that the drop in giving by both alumni (-10.1 percent) and non-alumni (-5.5 percent) was likely due to the sharp stock market selloff in December 2018, as well as passage of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which may have encouraged some households to make several years' worth of contributions in 2017, before the doubling of the standard deduction took effect.

Overall growth in voluntary support varied by institution type, with private and public research/doctoral institutions and public baccalaureate institutions reporting increases while private master's and baccalaureate, both private and public specialized, and associate's institutions saw declines. The report also listed eight gifts of at least $100 million from eight single donors to seven institutions totaling $2.21 billion and accounting for 4.5 percent of the total raised by all institutions in FY19.

"This is the first full academic year reported under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The impact on our sector is yet to be fully understood," said CASE president and CEO Sue Cunningham. "Elements of the data in this survey provide early indications of the anticipated impact on giving as a result of this legislation. CASE continues to advocate for a universal charitable deduction, encouraging broader philanthropic engagement at every level."

"2019 VSE Results: 2019 Marks the 10th Consecutive Year of Growth for Voluntary Giving to Educational Institutions." Council for Advancement and Support of Education Press Release 02/05/2020. "Voluntary Support of Education Key Findings. 2018-19." Council for Advancement and Support of Education Report Summary 02/05/2020.