Show Me the Money: Donations to Colleges at All-Time High

Schools across the country brought in big bucks from donations last year.

By Kathryn Knight Randolph

February 09, 2015

Show Me the Money: Donations to Colleges at All-Time High Show Me the Money: Donations to Colleges at All-Time High

At this point in the year, money is a pretty hot topic: how to get more financial aid, where to find scholarships and what the total sticker price of your dream college will be ultimately. While all that is important to you now, donations and endowments at colleges should figure into your equations and tabulations too. Why, you might ask?

Because the strength of an institution is determined by how much money they have to deliver an education in the classroom, provide student opportunities on and off campus as well as networking and job search help after graduation. The truth of the matter is that it actually costs a lot more to educate, house and provide for a student than the amount you’re charged each year for tuition. So as you’re looking at schools, financial aid and scholarships in order to make a final decision, make sure to check out each school’s endowment too.

Fortunately, various sources are reporting an influx of donations to colleges across the country from alumni, foundations and organizations. Last year, charitable donations were at an all-time high of $38 billion, according to the Council for Aid to Education. Not surprisingly, universities like Harvard and Stanford top the list, with Harvard University pulling in $1.16 billion all by itself, as reported by Inside Higher Ed.

What’s more, most of the money donated to colleges and universities is specified for financial aid purposes. In most cases, alumni, foundations and organizations are allowed to designate a specific interest or area of the school in which to distribute their funds. In 2014, endowment gifts for the use of student aid were up from 38.5% in 2013 to 43.6%, according to Inside Higher Ed.

So while the abundance of wealth at some schools may be overwhelming to students that just need a few thousand dollars to attend their dream school, they can be rest assured that a great deal of those funds are going toward resources to help them. Check out the top 10 endowment totals this year:

1. Harvard University — $1.16 billion
2. Stanford University — $929 million
3. University of Southern California — $732 million
4. Northwestern University — $616 million
5. Johns Hopkins University — $615 million
6. Cornell University — $546 million
7. University of Texas at Austin — $529 million
8. University of Pennsylvania — $484 million
9. University of Washington — $478 million
10. Columbia University — $470 million

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