Charitable contributions to colleges and universities fell 11.9 percent in 2009, to $27.85 billion — the steepest decline in the history of the annual Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) survey conducted by the Council for Aid to Education.
The twenty institutions that raised the most in 2009 received $7.28 billion — $1.13 billion less than the top twenty institutions raised in 2008. Once again, Stanford University topped the list, raising $640.1 million, followed by Harvard ($601.6 million), Cornell ($446.75 million), the University of Pennsylvania ($439.8 million), and Johns Hopkins University ($433.4 million). Also making the top ten were Columbia ($413.4 million), the University of Southern California ($369 million), Yale ($358.1 million), the University of California, Los Angeles ($351.7 million), and the University of Wisconsin-Madison ($341.8 million).
Although they represented just 1.9 percent of the 1,027 respondents to the survey, the top twenty institutions accounted for 26.2 percent of all gifts to higher education in 2009. In addition, two-thirds of the institutions that responded to the surveys in 2008 and 2009 reported declines in support, with private liberal arts colleges reporting the largest decline in charitable giving (18.3 percent).
According to VSE director Ann Kaplan, the decline was expected given recent economic conditions. "Charitable contributions to education institutions facilitate the objectives of both donors and institutions in a relationship that has endured through a variety of economic circumstances," said Kaplan. "Historical patterns indicate that as the economy recovers, contributions will rise again. However, 2009 was a difficult year for colleges and universities and, indeed, also for the individuals and institutions that care about them."