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Schools rake in record donations … unequally

Sabri Ben-Achour Jan 28, 2015

Harvard University raised more money last year than any U.S. school ever: $1.16 billion in the 2013-14 fiscal year, according to an annual survey from the Council for Aid to Education. That brings the school’s endowment to $36.4 billion as of June. Stanford is runner up with $21.4 billion. 

Part of the explanation is that Harvard kicked off a capital campaign to raise $6.5 billion by 2018, but 2013-14 was a great year for American colleges and universities in the aggregate: They received almost $38 billion, an 11 percent increase over the previous fiscal year and one of the biggest jumps in more than a decade.


The bumper year has to do in part with giant gifts of private art collections, but it also has to do with the stock market. Many gifts to schools come as securities or stocks, and the period saw tremendous gains for markets. In general, endowments grew by about  15 percent in the same period.

But just as with personal income in the United States, there is palpable inequality in this accumulation of wealth. Fewer than 2 percent of colleges raised 30 percent of the money. Even the percentage of alumni who donate is shrinking, while the amount they gave rose. 

Nearly 15.7 percent of the gifts were for student financial aid.

More money than ever is flowing into the top funded institutions. But how much money are we talking about?

1. Harvard University ($1.16 billion)
2. Stanford University ($928.46 million)
3. University of Southern California ($731.93 million)
4. Northwestern University ($616.35 million)
5. Johns Hopkins University ($614.61 million)
6. Cornell University ($546.09 million)
7. University of Texas at Austin ($529.39 million)
8. University of Pennsylvania ($483.57 million)
9. University of Washington ($478.07 million)
10. Columbia University ($469.97 million)

CORRECTION: An early version of this story incorrectly listed the percentage of donations earmarked for student financial aid. The text has been corrected.

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