Indiana

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What Does IU's Big Fundraising Year Mean For Students?

Indiana University president Michael McRobbie (right) addresses IU's graduating class at the December 2011 commencement ceremony.

2011 was a much better year for donations to colleges and universities, The Chronicle for Higher Education reports, and Indiana University had a better year than most.

The total amount IU received in grants and gifts last year — more than $295 million — ranked 17th in a national survey of college giving whose results were released this week, out-raising Notre Dame ($205 million) and Purdue ($155 million).

But does a big fundraising year actually make a difference for Indiana’s cash-strapped students? The answer, probably, is yes — but it’s hard to quantify just how big a difference.

AMOUNT INDIANA COLLEGES & UNIVERSITIES RAISED IN 2011
Indiana University $295.9 million
University of Notre Dame $205.2 million
Purdue University $155.4 million
Manchester College $39.5 million
Valparaiso University $26.5 million
DePauw University $22.0 million
Ball State University $19.0 million
Marian University $18.6 million
Indiana State University $14.0 million
Wabash College $13.1 million
Source: CAE

Barbara Coffman, executive director for strategic planning at the IU Foundation, tells StateImpact the survey reflects “Total Voluntary Support,” which includes private donations and non-governmental grants.

“It could be any donation of any kind. This could be someone sending us $25, it could be someone talking to us about $1 million setting up an endowment where we could invest the principal. It could be someone having set up a gift in their will,” Coffman says.

As for how much of that money goes to students, Coffman says the way the IU Foundation counts the money could make that amount unclear. Though a recent report shows the university received $5 million in donations for student financial aid, some of that money is counted in a different category of donations, but is used to fund scholarships.

“Donors are usually very interested in giving scholarship money,” Coffman says.

But as Andrew Rotherham points in a TIME column, universities need a significant critical mass of money to make a dent in student expenses:

Of the U.S. schools in the NACUBO survey, the median endowment size is $90 million. Not too shabby, but at the standard expenditure rate, an endowment that size generates only about $4.5 million in spendable dollars per year. That’s a decent chunk of change, but hardly enough to eliminate student debt and rely on investment returns instead.

As The Chronicle pointed out, total donations to IU actually dropped by more than 13 percent between 2010 and 2011 — but not enough to take the school out of the top 20:

The university’s fund-raising totals are often affected by decisions of the Lilly Endowment, which focuses much of its giving in Indiana and which gave the university’s medical school $60-million in 2010—the third-largest donation in the university’s history. In 2011, he said, the endowment gave the university only about $6-million.

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