Feb. 15 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. colleges and universities attracted $30.3 billion in charitable contributions last year, rebounding from a lag in donations that began with the 2008 recession.
Stanford University, near Palo Alto, California, topped the list with $709.4 million, according to the Council for Aid to Education, a nonprofit organization in New York. Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, received $639.2 million.
“We remain in awe and humbled,” Martin Shell, vice president for development at Stanford, said in a phone interview. The school completed a five-year fundraising campaign in December, bringing in $6.2 billion. The donations have funded more than 130 new faculty positions, more than $250 million in undergraduate scholarships and 38 new or renovated buildings.
The majority of college donations, 86 percent, went to a quarter of the 1,009 schools that participated in the Council’s survey. Each of the top four, Stanford, Harvard, Yale and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, raised more in donations last year than the American Heart Association, which received $510.6 million in the fiscal year that ended in June, according to the national charity.
Gifts for capital purposes, such as endowments and construction, increased 14 percent, while total contributions jumped 8.2 percent.
“In tough economic times, donors don’t necessarily stop giving but they do reduce the number of organizations they support,” David Onion, senior associate vice president for development at the University of Texas-Austin, said in a phone interview.
UT-Austin raised $354.3 million in 2011, a 50 percent increase over the previous year. The school ranks just outside the top 10 in donations, and is more than halfway to a targeted $3 billion capital campaign that started in 2006, Onion said.
The state’s connections to the oil and gas industry has meant the impact of the recession on its economy has been less than for the country as a whole, Onion said.
“That has kept a lot of folks very much in the game and feeling positive about the role of the university,” he said.
The increase in donations bucks a trend in recent years. Last year saw the biggest drop in at least four decades, according to the survey. The amount raised in 2011 is the second-highest on record. Colleges and universities received $31.6 billion in 2008, according to the Council.
In the top 10, MIT had the biggest percentage increase, with a 74 percent jump in giving. Yale University came in second, with giving eclipsing $580 million, more than the school raised prior to the recession.
The newcomer to the top 10, the University of California, San Francisco, had donations for several medical projects. The school received $85 million for a Mission Bay hospital complex, and $47 million for pulmonary research and care.
--Editors: Chris Staiti, Lisa Wolfson
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