A Stanford Cardinal fan cheers on his team during the Pac-12 Championship game at Stanford Stadium on November 30, 2012 in Stanford, California.
A Stanford Cardinal fan cheers on his team during the Pac-12 Championship game at Stanford Stadium on November 30, 2012 in Stanford, California. - 
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Despite the uncertain economy, donations are pouring in to colleges and universities. A new report from the Council for Aid to Education says college fundraisers brought in $31 billion last year -- up slightly from the year before.

Topping the list is Stanford University, which became the first to raise more than $1 billion in a single year. Stanford outraised Harvard and Yale -- and everybody else -- for the eighth year in a row, according to the council’s annual fundraising survey.

Geography helps. Silicon Valley is packed with rich people. Stanford has helped make a lot of them rich, says Bruce Flessner, a fundraising consultant with Bentz Whaley Flessner.

“Stanford’s created a lot of the wealth, and a lot of the wealth has benefited Stanford,” he says.

Venture capitalist and Stanford business school grad Robert King, for instance, gave $150 million for a new institute to promote entrepreneurship in developing countries.

Stanford is also just really good at raising money, says John Cash with consulting firm Marts & Lundy.

“They have big ideas, and very wealthy people give big gifts to support big ideas,” he says.

But Stanford is not immune to dips in the economy. During the financial crisis it had to cut about 20 percent of its fundraising staff. The budget uncertainty in Washington, D.C., could affect giving this year, says Martin Shell, Stanford's vice president for development.

“I do think donors are like markets,” Shell says. “Uncertainty is something that they abhor.”

The 10 universities that raised the most in 2012:

  1. Stanford University (Stanford, CA) $1,034,848,797
  2. Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) $650,243,000
  3. Yale University (New Haven, CT) $543,905,260
  4. University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA) $491,853,719
  5. Columbia University (New York, NY) $490,311,087
  6. Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD) $479,654,409
  7. University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA) $440,602,631
  8. University of California-Berkeley (Berkeley, CA) $405,434,869
  9. New York University (New York, NY) $395,509,740
  10. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA) $379,058,315

Institutions that raised the most per student (and amount raised per student) in 2012:

  1. University of Texas M.D. Cancer Center ($590,719)
  2. University of Texas Health Center at Tyler ($163,225)
  3. University of California, San Francisco ($69,864)
  4. Deep Springs College ($67,334)
  5. Stanford University ($55,745)
  6. University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas ($48,669)
  7. Yale University ($45,803)
  8. California Institute of Technology ($44,576)
  9. Hillsdale College ($41,506)
  10. Amherst College ($36,399)
  11. Massachusetts Institute of Technology ($34,795)
  12. Phillips Theological Seminary ($34,611)
  13. Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology ($34,512)
  14. Baylor College of Medicine ($33,528)
  15. Union Theological Seminary & Presbyterian School of Christian Education ($32,877)
  16. Oregon Health & Science University ($32,677)
  17. Princeton University ($31,306)
  18. Harvard University ($30,892)
  19. Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary ($30,800)
  20. Bethany Theological Seminary ($27,907)

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Follow Amy Scott at @amyreports