February 15, 2023
Philanthropic giving to higher education increased by 12.5 percent last fiscal year to a total of $59.5 billion, the highest year-over-year increase since 2000, according to the latest Voluntary Support of Education survey from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. In fiscal 2021, giving rose 7 percent, and the previous year it declined slightly, by less than 1 percent.
The contributions went mostly to restricted endowments, primarily to fund scholarships, and to “operations with restrictions on use”—usually research projects. Together, those areas accounted for nearly 80 percent of total giving. Sixty-one percent of charitable donations to higher ed came from organizations, 22 percent came from alumni and 16 percent came from individuals who were not alumni.
CASE president and CEO Sue Cunningham said the upward trend was a sign that commitment to higher education from alumni and philanthropists alike remains strong, even as institutions face an increasingly tough array of challenges—from the looming demographic cliff and post-pandemic enrollment dips to growing skepticism about the value of higher ed and its increasingly fraught place in political discourse.
“It’s incredibly good news, the impact these philanthropic resources flowing into institutions will have at a time when other revenue streams are being squeezed more and more,” she said.
Ann Kaplan, senior director of the VSE survey at CASE, said most of the giving occurred at the end of 2021—still part of the 2022 fiscal year—when the stock market was bullish after a long pandemic slump.
The numbers line up with what many higher education institutions reported to be a record-breaking fundraising year in fiscal 2022, despite rising inflation and continued fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Some big institutions, including Pennsylvania State University and Virginia Tech, shattered previous highs by more than $50 million, but even smaller institutions like Quincy University and Fayetteville State reported historic fundraising totals.