Claremont McKenna raises $1 billion, among largest haul ever for a liberal arts college

A view of college buildings and a grass area.
Claremont McKenna College has raised $1 billion to expand campus size, programs and financial aid.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Claremont McKenna College has raised more than $1 billion, one of the highest fundraising hauls ever among the nation’s liberal arts institutions, and will use the gifts to double the size of its campus and expand science programs, faculty and financial aid.

The final tally, announced Monday, surpassed the original $800-million goal. The eight-year campaign did not experience “hiccups” in raising funds through the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic downturn, said Michelle Chamberlain, vice president of advancement and student opportunities.

“The long and short of how it happened is completely based on our tight-knit alumni community,” Chamberlain said. “It’s a testament to the power of our collective efforts ... that gives us so much confidence in our future.”


Claremont McKenna, a top-rated liberal arts institution known for its expertise in economics, business and government, educates about 1,300 students and is a member of the seven-school Claremont Colleges consortium in the Pomona Valley.

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The college already has invested one-third of its nearly $1.1 billion on several ventures, Chamberlain said. They include nearly $300 million to increase financial aid by 46%, create 72 endowed scholarship funds, fund the first paid summer internship for students with financial need and support career coaching and placement. The enhanced aid has helped the campus increase the number of low-income students eligible for federal Pell Grants from 10% to 18% and, first-generation students from 9% to 17% during the campaign.

The college also purchased a 75-acre property adjacent to the current campus that will enable it to double its footprint to accommodate academic and administrative offices, student housing, a new aquatics center and a major green space that will be developed into eight athletic and practice fields.

Construction is underway on a science center to house a new department of integrated sciences that will bring together up to 25 faculty members and their students to tackle three “grand challenges” of human, brain and climate health.

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In addition, the funds have helped create 23 named professorships and chairs to support new and existing faculty roles.

More than 12,000 donors contributed to the campaign, representing about two-thirds of the college alumni. The median gift was $220, with 90% of all donations less than $5,000. But 89 supporters contributed more than $1 million, including alumni Robert A. Day, Henry R. Kravis and George R. Roberts. The science center will be named after Day; the integrated sciences department after Kravis and the expanded campus after Roberts.


Chamberlain said that Claremont McKenna’s 75th anniversary, celebrated during the 2021-22 academic year, helped boost the fundraising campaign. And the prolonged pandemic and economic gloom provided a “shot of adrenaline” among alumni to step up to secure the college’s future as a small residential campus known for close student-faculty interactions, leadership development and a commitment to free speech.

“That sense of pride really carried us through this final year of the campaign,” she said.