Private Sector Is Answering the Call to Help Finance Cal State San Marcos


In these days of high-tech and equally high-cost education, universities often go to their alumni and individual and corporate connections for money.

State funds fall painfully short at all public universities in providing top-notch education, leaving the institutions to turn to the private sector for support.

Cal State San Marcos, the new kid on the block in San Diego higher education, lacks those “natural resources.” It doesn’t even have shiny new buildings or student-filled courtyards with which to impress potential donors.

Still, if recent performance is any indication, the financial security of Cal State San Marcos is secure. The young university has already raised more than $220,000 in cash and goods and services from local individuals and corporations, nearly fulfilling its goal of raising $250,000 by June 30, the end of this fiscal year.


Still, with all the high-tech equipment needed for modern education, $250,000 doesn’t go far, and San Marcos views many of these donations as “good-faith” gifts by people who want to see the campus grow--but also want to see what its first year brings before donating more.

The first 500 students begin at Cal State San Marcos this fall. While they wait for their buildings to be finished in the summer of 1992, they will use a rented office center now serving students of San Diego State University’s North County campus.

“The whole key has been that people really want a public university here in North County,” said Bill Stacy, Cal State San Marcos president and fund-raiser extraordinaire. “The sophistication of North County in its intellectual demands is enormous.”

In the past two decades, California public institutions have been forced to mine the private sector for funds, with taxpayer money accounting for a little more than half the budget of the average California State University campus. Federal grants and student fees make up part of the rest.

“What we use the gift money for is to extend and add a margin of excellence to what the state funds supply,” Stacy said.

California public universities are no longer state-supported, they are state-aided, said Rick Abbott, SDSU’s director of major gifts. Money supplied by the state would provide for only a bare-bones university, and money for any special programs or equipment must be raised by each campus, he said.

“There’s a popular misconception that SDSU gets most of its funds from the state,” said Abbott, whose university raised $8.5 million in 1988-89, leading the CSU system. The misconception makes it significantly more difficult for public universities to farm the private sector for cash, he said.

“The resistance in the community is that people expect that the state is going to provide funds for the university and that the privates (colleges) have to go out and raise their own,” said Don Woodrow, vice president of Ketchum Inc., a Pittsburgh-based fund-raising consultant firm for colleges and universities.

Several foundations and corporations have policies against donating to taxpayer-supported colleges, Woodrow said.

“The state provides the college with the building, but when you get into some of these sophisticated labs, there’s just not the money, and there’s no way in the world the public university can provide that unless they go to the private sector,” he said.

The private money raised by Cal State San Marcos so far will go toward a wide range of undertakings, Stacy said, from biology and chemistry equipment to recruiting faculty members who may need persuasion to help lift the university from infancy.

“The bottom line is that I couldn’t get that professor to sign the contract without having his wife be able to come out here and say, “Yes, we could live here,’ ” Stacy said in giving an example of where the funds have gone.

Stacy considers the $220,000 raised since January a success, and points out that the amount is nearly half what some of the established CSU campuses raise in a year. The average amount raised by a CSU campus during 1988-89 was $3.4 million, according to CSU figures.

Cal State San Marcos’ fund-raising goal this year is only 14% of its $1.8-million budget, but Stacy hopes that graduates of San Marcos will be able to begin giving back to their alma mater their first year out of college.

“Students will know what they really would have liked to have here,” he said.

In the absence of alumni, however, Stacy has tapped the shoulders of just about everyone who will listen.

“My strategy has been not to ask one person for $100,000, but to ask several hundred people if they would be interested in helping us in a modest way,” he said.

“They’re saying to me, ‘I’m willing to let you show me that it will be a great university, and, if you’re a good steward of that, see me next year,’ ” Stacy said.

“The people here are giving in faith,” said Carol Cox, a member of the university’s advisory council. “And, in years to come, they’ll be giving on results.”

The largest donation so far has come from Hewlett-Packard, a Palo Alto-based computer company with an office in Rancho Bernardo, which has donated $19,000 in computer equipment.

“We always welcome what will be a first-class campus to recruit from,” said Scott McClendon, general manager of the company’s San Diego division.

“Most of our employees live in North County, so, on a continuing basis, a lot of them will want to take advantage of the educational opportunities that Cal State San Marcos is ultimately going to have,” McClendon said. “Obviously, we’d like them to buy some equipment from us over time as well, and we want to recruit from there.”

Cox said the willingness of North County residents to give money to the university demonstrates the strength of their desire to have an institution of higher education in their midst.

“The people here have been waiting many years for a university of their own,” Cox said. “We now have something concrete, and North County has responded with tremendous support.”

Aside from its annual formal fund-raising ball, the council has sent out more than 2,000 letters soliciting donations, and received responses from more than 100 individuals and firms. A foundation for Cal State San Marcos will be in place by July 1 to act as the fund-raising organization for the college.

Beyond the community’s relative wealth, Cal State San Marcos’ fund-raising success can also be traced to Stacy’s own abilities.

“He really understands fund-raising and the importance of it,” said Tom Wood, chairman of the Southeast Missouri University Foundation board of directors, the nonprofit fund-raising arm of the university where Stacy was president before coming to San Marcos last July.

“Stacy established the foundation of Southeast Missouri State, and it’s grown and grown each year based on the way he got things started,” Wood said.

Then there is the faculty recruiting. Research grants and the prestige that follows them come only after top-notch faculty members are recruited.

“As the faculty here grows, there will be many research proposals written to try to capture some of those large research grants, no doubt about it,” Cox said.

Cal State San Marcos now has 12 core faculty members, and 20 more professors are expected to be hired by fall.