USC retains No. 3 ranking in university fundraising, despite 11% drop in donations

USC President C. L. Max Nikias addresses a crowd of alumni on a 2015 fundraising trip to Austin, Texas.

USC President C. L. Max Nikias addresses a crowd of alumni on a 2015 fundraising trip to Austin, Texas.

(Thomas Meredith / For The Times)

Alumni and other donors opened their checkbooks and gave USC more than $653 million in charitable contributions last year, according to an annual survey of colleges and universities.

That figure was 11% lower than the $732 million Trojans raised in 2014. But it was still high enough for USC to maintain its No. 3 spot among American institutions of higher learning, the Voluntary Support of Education survey revealed.

Stanford raised $1.63 billion in 2015, the most money ever collected by a college or university in a single year since the survey began in 1957, according to the New York-based Council for Aid to Education, which conducts the survey. Harvard came in second, with $1 billion in donations.


Altogether, the nation’s colleges and universities persuaded donors to hand over $40.3 billion worth of cash, art and other property, the CAE said. That was also a record.

Nearly 30% of that haul went to just 20 schools, the survey found.

UC San Francisco was the fourth-highest money-raiser, bringing in nearly $609 million last year. Cornell was fifth, with about $590 million in donations.

Johns Hopkins, Columbia, Princeton, Northwestern and the University of Pennsylvania rounded out the top 10.

UCLA raised $473 million, good enough for 11th place, according to the survey. UC Berkeley’s $366 million in donations put it 20th on the list.

Nationwide, the value of donations to colleges and universities was 7.6% higher in 2015 than in 2014, the survey found. For the sake of comparison, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 3.9% and the Nasdaq Composite index rose 11.8%.

The Council for Aid to Education predicted that donations would rise again in 2016, “albeit modestly.”


USC is in the midst of a $6-billion fundraising campaign. The largest donations the school received last year were a $50-million gift for neuroscience research, a $25-million donation to treat children with severe hearing loss, and a $20-million gift to fight blood cancers.

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