Charitable Donations In Record Numbers at U.S. Colleges

U.S. colleges and universities have set a new record in charitable donations, as the Council for Aid to Education reports the amount spiked 9% to bring it up to $33.8 billion and past the high of $31.6 billion set in 2009.

Top Schools

Stanford received the most donations with $931.6 million--coming close to the record $1 billion+ it set in 2012--and has remained at the top of the list for a decade now. In a bit of a twist, though, Harvard--the country's wealthiest college--trailed Standford by over $160 million, raising $792.3 million. The rest of the schools that made the top 10 list include:


  • 4. Columbia University ($674.51 million)
  • 5. Johns Hopkins University ($646.66 million)
  • 6. University of Pennsylvania ($518.57 million)
  • 7. Cornell University ($474.96 million)
  • 8. New York University ($449.34 million)
  • 9. Yale University ($444.17 million)
  • 10. Duke University ($423.66 million)


Signs of a Recovering Economy?

The recession started in 2008, but its effects took a year or two to really set in--those who had money were still riding their wealth up the crest of the peak of the economic downturn and hadn't begun to feel the consequences yet. Donations were able to be at a high in 2009 because of that. But with the recession lasting several years, donations to colleges fell.

Now, however, it seems as though the tide has turned and the new record of university donations can be seen as a sign that the economy is getting back on an even footing. Previously, colleges--despite seeming to be financially abundant--were struggling to balance their budgets and the uptick in donations seems to show that the country is returning to finer form.

Another point to consider when looking at the amount donated is how and why record numbers were posted this year. Traditionally, the stock market rises and falls throughout the year in terms of money given to academic institutions, with a certain amount budgeted for and set, the rise indicates something else is going on: schools are putting in more effort at securing money from their donors, strengthening the relationship between the two.

State by State

Some states, like Alaska and South Dakota, only had one or two respondents, which marked them lower on the survey. But highly populated states like California and New York have a lot more money raised simply because there are a lot more schools in the respective states.

So far, the record amount of donations seems to be a good sign, but a better barometer will be next year's numbers to see if the trend continues--and the economy gets even stronger.

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