Stanford ranks first in private donations


Stanford University raised more in private donations than any other U.S. college or university last year, even as charitable support for higher education fell steeply nationwide because of the recession, a new survey shows.

Stanford held onto the top spot for the fifth straight year, taking in $640.1 million in donations in 2009, down about 18% from the previous year, according to the report released Wednesday by the Council for Aid to Education. Harvard was second with $601.6 million, followed by Cornell, the University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins.

Four California universities ranked in the top 20 nationally. USC, which received $368.9 million, was seventh; UCLA, ninth, with $351.6 million; UC San Francisco, 15th, with $300.4, and UC Berkeley, 19th, with $255.1 million.

The council, a New York-based nonprofit, estimated that U.S. colleges and universities raised a total of about $27.8 billion in 2009, with alumni and foundations the biggest donors. The 12% decline was the steepest percentage drop since the survey began 40 years ago, said survey director Ann E. Kaplan. That and decreases in the value of endowments and income made fiscal 2009 a tough time for most campuses, she said.

“It had an impact,” she said, referring to the budget cutbacks that many colleges faced last year.

Martin Shell, Stanford’s vice president for development, said the school was gratified to remain No. 1 in fundraising at a time when many donors faced financial problems and his own department cut its staff.

“The fact that our donors responded with this level of support is a real testament to the generosity of our alumni, parents and friends,” he said.

Some of the income counted in the survey included payments on pledges made in prior years, Shell said. The university also managed to collect what he described as a significant portion of $100 million pledged last January by several donors to establish a research institute focusing on energy issues.

The largest gift for that institute was $50 million from energy executive and Stanford alumnus Jay Precourt, for whom it was named.