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Gifts to U.S. colleges continue to rise

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Contributions to U.S. colleges and universities rose to $29.75 billion in 2007, while alumni giving dipped slightly, a new study says.

Total donations to higher education grew 6.3 percent in 2007, just below the 10-year average growth rate of 6.5 percent, according to an annual survey by the Council for Aid to Education.

The Voluntary Support of Education survey found 20 institutions account for almost 30 percent of this total increase.

These schools, which represent only 2 percent of survey respondents, received over a quarter of all contributions to U.S. higher education in 2007, the study says.

At the top of the list was Stanford University, with $832.4 million in charitable contributions, followed by Harvard University, with $614 million, and the University of Southern California, with $469.7 million.

Alumni giving fell 1.5 percent in 2007, a phenomenon the report attributes to unusually high alumni-giving levels in 2006.

Despite the decline last year, alumni donations in 2007 topped 2005 levels by 16.5 percent, the study says.

Alumni participation rates also fell to 11.7 percent from 11.9 percent, a result the study says was driven by advances in the technology used to track alumni.

The number of alumni on record increased 4.1 percent in 2007, while alumni donor pools expanded only 1.9 percent.

Enrollment has increased sharply in recent years, ballooning 21 percent between 1994 and 2004, causing the average age of alumni to decline, the study says.

“Younger individuals tend to give less frequently, and they make smaller contributions,” Ann E. Kaplan, director of the survey, says in a statement. “The challenge to colleges is to engage their young alumni early so that when they have the capacity to make more substantial gifts, they will include their alma maters in their philanthropic plans.”

Foundation grants to higher education increased nearly 20 percent, the study says, with more than a third coming from family foundations.

This trend may have contributed to the dip in alumni participation, the study says.

As family foundations, donor-advised funds and other institutionalized giving vehicles gain popularity, gifts from these sources cannot be legally credited to alumni.

Corporate giving increased 4.3 percent over 2006, the study says, ultimately accounting for or $4.8 billion, or 16.1 percent of all gifts.

The Council for Aid to Education estimates the 1,023 institutions in its survey account for 85 percent of charitable constitutions received by U.S. colleges and universities in 2007.

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