Texas A&M Pulls in $740-Million for Academics and Football

Texas A&M University announced on Monday that it had received more than $740-million in gifts and pledges for the fiscal year that concluded on August 31. It is a significant achievement, though not technically a record for a public institution since the full amount has not yet been received.

The Council for Aid to Education, which tracks gifts to colleges in its annual Voluntary Support of Education survey, counts only cash in hand, not pledges or intended bequests. An official of the Texas A&M Foundation said that 30 percent of the total was “cash through the door,” 42 percent was in the form of pledges, and 28 percent was in estate commitments. The official noted that the university’s historical pledge-fulfillment rate was 95 percent.

Record or not, Texas A&M has raised a tremendous sum at a time when many public institutions are feeling pinched by diminished state support, public resistance to tuition increases, and flat or nearly flat growth in endowments and private giving.

Ed Davis, president of the Texas A&M Foundation, said three factors had driven the university’s fund-raising success: confidence among alumni and other donors that A&M is a place “on the move,” substantial wealth generation as a result of Texas’ robust energy economy, and a “positive demographic shift” that has created a large pool of donors who are in their prime giving years.

“When we began the millennium, we had 20,000 former students who were 55 or older. Today we have about 50,000, and by 2020 we’ll have 100,000,” Mr. Davis said in an interview. The successful campaign, he said, had been “dominated by gifts from wealth, not from income.”

John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M University system, said another factor has been at work as well: “Football is one heck of a megaphone for us to tell our story.”

Texas A&M joined the powerhouse Southeastern Conference last year, and last December Johnny Manziel, the Aggies’ quarterback, became the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy.

Mr. Davis said that gifts designated for the $450-million redevelopment of Texas A&M’s stadium, Kyle Field, had accounted for more than a third of the $740-million total. But he added: “The man-bites-dog part of that story is that 1,500 of the donors who have made gifts to Kyle Field have made parallel gifts to academics. Some of those have been in the seven- and eight-figure range.”

About 95 percent of the gifts are donor restricted, he said, including $31-million toward a new engineering complex and $20-million for the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy. About $97.5-million was in the form of private gifts for research, and gifts from the annual-fund drive totaled $7.6-million, just over 1 percent of the total. Estate bequests totaled $205-million. The largest share of the money, $350.9-million, came from the Texas A&M Foundation, with about a third of that sum represented by 40 gifts that exceeded $1-million each.

Stanford University, a private institution, last year became the first university to collect more than $1-billion in a single year, according to the Council for Aid to Education. Public-university systems commonly raise huge sums—the University of California system took in $1.56-billion in the 2012 fiscal year—but fund raising by a single public institution rarely approaches the tier occupied by the largest private universities.

Ann E. Kaplan, director of the Voluntary Support of Education survey, said that since 2001 the most money raised by a public university—cash in hand—was $595-million by the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 2005. That included a $296-million foundation grant that resulted from the conversion of Blue Cross & Blue Shield United of Wisconsin from nonprofit to for-profit status. The University of California at Los Angeles raised $457-million in 2008 and $415-million in 2011. Wisconsin raised $410-million in 2008, and the University of California at Berkeley raised $405-million in 2012.

In May another Texas institution boasted that it was on pace for a single-year fund-raising record. The University of Texas at Austin says on its Web site that it raised $453-million during the just-ended fiscal year, but a spokesman said the amount had not been verified and that it included pledges.

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