School Choice & Charters

Universities, Private K-12 Schools Report Sharp Rise in Donations

By Julie Blair — June 16, 1999 2 min read
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Private contributions to many independent K-12 schools and all U.S. colleges and universities grew in 1998 by the fastest pace in years, thanks in part to a surging economy and stock market, an annual report says.

Donations by individuals, corporations, foundations, and religious organizations increased by 31 percent, from $647 million to $849 million, at some 250 independent precollegiate schools between 1997 and 1998, according to the report, “Voluntary Support of Education 1998.” The increase is the highest since the 1950s, said Jeff Ourvan, the spokesman for the Council for Aid to Education, the New York City-based nonprofit group that plans to release the report next month.

“The news is extremely good for independent K-12 [schools] ... and for families with students lucky enough to attend them,” Mr. Ourvan said.

Money given to some 1,000 public and private colleges and universities rose by 15 percent during the same period, rising from $16 billion to $18 billion, the report says. The increase is the largest since 1986.

Mr. Ourvan noted, however, that slightly fewer than one-third of all independent K-12 schools that belong to the National Association of Independent Schools were surveyed. The study does not represent a comprehensive look at contributions to all private precollegiate schools, he said.

While the news is also encouraging for the higher education community, private contributions for colleges and universities make up only 8 percent of the total funds received by the institutions, Mr. Ourvan said. The rest of the money is generated from public support and tuition dollars, he said.

“The proportion of public funding for colleges has gone down, and that’s the bulk of the funding,” Mr. Ourvan said. “Therefore, higher education is increasingly caught in a vise between growing enrollment and diminishing public funds.”

True to Their Schools

Private donors were encouraged last year by the nation’s economic growth, especially in the stock market, the report says. The increases are also attributed to an aging population with greater resources and to the sophistication of fund-raising tactics.

Independent K-12 schools benefited the most from the bull market because donors to those institutions were more likely than donors to colleges and universities to make their gifts in the form of stocks, said David Morgan, the vice president of research for the council.

Alumni were the largest source of private giving both for independent schools and for colleges.

Gifts from churches and other religious organizations, which accounted for a relatively small share of the private donations, recorded the greatest percentage of growth of any category, both for K-12 schools and higher education institutions.

Private giving to independent schools will continue to increase over the next several years, predicted Helen Colson, an expert on fund raising for such schools and the president of Helen Colson Development Associates, a Chevy Chase, Md., consulting firm.

“However, the competition for the philanthropic dollar is increasing,” she added. "[Philanthropists] are being approached with increasing frequency by public and charter schools.”

The report, “Voluntary Aid to Education 1998,” will be available in mid-July for $85 to the general public by calling the Council for Aid to Education at (212) 661-5800. Participants in the report can obtain a copy for $55.

A version of this article appeared in the June 16, 1999 edition of Education Week as Universities, Private K-12 Schools Report Sharp Rise in Donations

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