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VSE Survey Shows Sharp Drop in 2009 Giving to U.S. Colleges, Universities

Charitable contributions to colleges and universities in the United States declined 11.9 percent to $27.85 billion, an indication that the impact of the recession on donors and the institutions they support was “even greater than anticipated,” according to CASE President John Lippincott.

The "Voluntary Support of Education" survey by the Council for Aid to Education reported charitable contributions declined from $31.6 billion in fiscal year 2008 to $27.85 billion in fiscal year 2009. Lippincott noted that the VSE results indicate that total giving from alumni and non-alumni individuals, historically about half of all giving to education, dropped more than giving from any other donor group. Alumni participation rates, or the percent of living and contactable alumni who donate in a given year, also declined.

Lippincott said it is important to note that the experiences of individual institutions vary widely from the averages.

“Not all institutions experienced declines in giving in 2008-09; indeed some reported significant increases,” he said.

Other trends noted in the 2009 report include:

  • Giving to the top 20 institutions dropped 11.8 percent.
  • Gifts for capital purposes, including endowments, took the biggest hits.
  • Current operations giving was modestly affected.
  • Reported endowments were down 22.3 percent.

VSE researchers say historical patterns indicate that as the economy recovers, contributions will rise again. The annual VSE report is sponsored by CASE.

This article is from the February 2010 issue of BriefCASE.