U. of Michigan Announces $4-Billion Campaign

The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor on Thursday kicked off what it is calling the largest fund-raising campaign ever by a public university, with a goal of $4-billion by 2018.

The university plans to devote $1-billion of the total to student support, an area encompassing financial aid, admissions, and “student experience,” according to a news release. The university raised $1.7-billion during the campaign’s “silent phase,” the release says.

The announcement makes Michigan the sixth institution this year to announce a capital-campaign goal of more than a billion dollars, said John Lippincott, president of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Most recently, in September, Harvard University announced it would seek to raise $6.5-billion by 2018.

A list of major campaigns compiled by the council shows that the only universities that have set their goals higher than Michigan are all private: Harvard, the University of Southern California (with a goal of $6-billion by 2018), Columbia University ($5-billion by this year, which it has already surpassed), Cornell University ($4.75-billion by 2015), the Johns Hopkins University ($4.5-billion by 2017), Stanford University (which raised $6.2-billion from 2004 to 2011), and the University of Pennsylvania (which raised $4.3-billion from 2005 to 2012).

Mr. Lippincott said Michigan’s announcement spoke to the effects of economic recovery and a “renewed optimism among universities, university fund raisers, and donors.”

In addition to the recession, declining levels of state support have in recent years made public universities more dependent on other revenue sources. But Mr. Lippincott said that argument didn’t resonate with the major donors so critical to a campaign’s success.

“Those major donors are not particularly interested in making a gift to plug a hole in the budget,” he said, adding that they generally “want to see a significant return on that investment in terms of the impact that gift is going to have.”

In its most recent campaign, from 2004 to 2008, Michigan raised $3.2-billion.

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