U.S. colleges raise $47B in ninth straight record year

U.S. colleges raised $46.7 billion in the 12 months through June 2018, the ninth straight record year, as the lengthy bull market for stocks helped spur contributions.

Harvard University, the country’s richest school, pulled in the most money at $1.4 billion, according to a study released Monday by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

Indiana put two colleges on the top 20 list: the University of Notre Dame raised $502.8 million to place 14th and Indiana University brought in $408.5 million to finish 20th. Notre Dame's amount rose 11.4 percent over the previous year and IU's increased 2.6 percent.

Purdue University raised $192.3 million, an increase of 26 percent over the previous year.

Elsewhere in Indiana, Ball State University raised $21.6 million, up 25 percent; Butler University raised $18.6 million, down 38 percent; Valparaiso brought in $19.4 million, up 18 percent; Wabash College raised $19.4 million, an increase of 26 percent; and Trine University raised $18.7 million, up 65 percent. 

The Standard & Poor's 500 index’s 14 percent return in the period may have helped encourage giving from a variety of donors. Three colleges brought in more than $1 billion each. Seven got single gifts of $100 million or more, the highest number of schools receiving contributions of that magnitude.

The total, up 7.2 percent from the prior year, came amid uncertainty following changes to the U.S. tax code in December 2017, about halfway through the academic term.

Contributions surged by about two-thirds from donor-advised funds, vehicles offering an immediate tax deduction for a one-time gift while their backers make charitable decisions over time. Some of the richest universities including Stanford and Yale run their own versions of the funds. Donors could itemize their returns for calendar 2017 but not necessarily 2018 due to the tax-law changes, according to the report.

“At that time, the stock market fared well,” said Ann Kaplan, senior director of the survey. “The assets invested in donor-advised funds likely increased due to the strength of the stock market and gifts from them would have increased in any tax climate.”

Among top fundraisers, second-place Stanford University attracted $1.1 billion and Columbia gathered $1 billion. The University of California at Los Angeles raised $787 million and UC San Francisco took in $730 million.

Six of the seven schools that received gifts of $100 million or more ranked in the top 20. The University of Arkansas, which got $120 million from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation but didn’t make the top 20, is using the money to establish the School of Art.

Some 927 schools responded to the survey, which relied on estimates for institutions that didn’t respond. A smaller number responded to the optional question on the donor funds.

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