College Donations Up Slightly

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Donations to colleges have rebounded to 2006 levels, but not because Main Street suddenly decided to give back.

Charitable contributions to institutions of higher education in the U.S. increased 0.5% in 2010, reaching $28 billion, according to the Council for Aid to Education’s Voluntary Support of Education survey. However, corporations, foundations and other organizations can be credited with the small bump. In total, their monetary support of colleges and universities increased 4.4% in 2010.

Personal giving, meanwhile, was actually down year over year. Both average total alumni donations ($7,100) and gifts ($1,080) declined 0.4%, and fewer alumni were giving back. Their participation levels fell to 9.8% in 2010, down 0.2% from 2009. Non-alumni personal giving declined 1.5%, to total $4,920.

There is a caveat, however: Charitable giving only matches pre-recession totals without accounting for inflation. In inflation-adjusted terms, college support was actually 8% lower in 2010 than it was in 2006.

Of course, the latest results are better than last year’s, when donations to colleges and universities dropped 11.9%, the steepest decline in the survey's history.  In 2009, alumni giving dropped 18% and non-alumni personal giving fell 18.4%.

“We’re still not out of the woods,” said Ann E. Kaplan, director of the survey, in the press release. “Charitable contributions to education are recovering very slowly. As long as the economy continues to improve, we can expect further improvement in giving, even if incremental at first.”

The VSE survey compiles and analyzes data supplied by 996 colleges and universities. According to the results, the nation’s top 20 fundraising universities in 2010 were:

  1. Stanford University ($598.89 million)
  2. Harvard University ($596.96 million)
  3. Johns Hopkins University ($427.59 million)
  4. University of Southern California ($426.02 million)
  5. Columbia University ($402.36 million)
  6. University of Pennsylvania ($381.59 million)
  7. Yale University ($380.90 million)
  8. New York University ($349.21 million)
  9. Duke University ($345.47 million)
  10. Indiana University ($342.82 million)
  11. University of California, Los Angeles ($340.41 million)

A full report and analysis of the survey’s findings will be released by the Council for Aid to Education later this spring.

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