Columbia alums, get out your wallets

Ashley Milne-Tyte Sep 29, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: Columbia University alums might as well get out their wallets right now. The development office is about to come a-knockin’ The school made a big annoucement this morning. Emphasis on the big. Columbia wants to raise $4 billion over the next five years. With a little help from their friends, of course. It’s the largest university fund raising campaign on record . . . though maybe not for long. We sent Ashley Milne-Tyte to find out how Columbia’s going raise all that money. And what they’re going to spend it on.

ASHLEY MILNE-TYTE: Columbia has already quietly raised $1.6 billion toward its goal. That includes 208 gifts of a million or more. Susan Fagin of Columbia’s development office says fundraising efforts will continue in the same way they have leading up to today’s announcement.

SUSAN FAGIN:“A lot of this gets done not by letter or phone but really in a very personal way. You know, in conversations over lunch or in a meeting that a trustee may ask to have face-to-face with a classmate. . . .”

What those in development circles call “friendraising.” Fagin says the money will go to the university’s endowment, financial aid, scholarships and new facilities. Jeff Cilingo of the Chronicle of Higher Education says Columbia’s efforts aren’t outlandish given how expensive it is to run a big research university today.

JEFF CILINGO:“There is less money coming from the federal government, and you know the research dollars coming from the National Institutes of Health or the National Science Foundation are also not as generous as they used to be. And so, universities need to turn to private donors to finance most of their ambitions.”

To get those dollars he says universities shuttle from one campaign to the next. And don’t forget the competition between universities to raise funds. Cilingo says he wouldn’t be surprised. . . .

CILINGO: If this $4 billion goal is surpassed by another institution in terms of an announcement even before the end of the year.”

He says the word is when Harvard gets a new president it’ll announce a $5 billion campaign.

In New York, I’m Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

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