College Mega Donations Rebound

Career College Central summary:

  • The number of so-called mega donations to U.S. colleges is rebounding just as Harvard University begins a $6.5 billion capital campaign, the largest in the history of higher education.
  • There have been 16 gifts this year of at least $50 million, twice as many as for all of last year as donors gain confidence amid improving economic conditions, according to data compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
  • Developer Stephen Ross gave $200 million to the University of Michigan while Qualcomm Inc. co-founder Irwin Jacobs and his wife donated $133 million to Cornell University. Last week, former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt gave $100 million to Georgetown University.
  • The importance of large gifts to capital campaigns can’t be overstated, according to John Lippincott, president of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education in Washington. Just 1 percent of donors account for 87 percent of the money raised by U.S. universities and colleges in campaigns of $1 billion or more, he said.
  • The pace of philanthropy in higher education is closely tied to the performance of the U.S. stock market. The number of mega gifts plummeted to eight in 2009 from 28 the year before after an economic recession and global credit crisis undermined equities, resulting in a 38 percent drop in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index in 2008.

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