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Harvard donations top US$1b for second straight year

[BOSTON] Donations to Harvard University have topped US$1 billion for the second straight year.

The Ivy League school said in an annual report on Thursday that it collected US$1 billion in gifts in the year ended June 30, after getting US$1.2 billion the previous year. The surge in donations, which are up from US$792 million in 2013, follows the formal start of a campaign to raise US$6.5 billion by 2018 to boost education and research and carry out construction projects across the campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Boston.

The university has already reached US$6.1 billion of donations and pledges in that campaign, according to Jeff Neal, a spokesman.

Giving to colleges has grown in recent years and has been marked by a proliferation of mega donations to the richest institutions. Schools raised a total of US$37.5 billion in the year ended June 2014, up 11 per cent from the year prior and the most on record, according to a report released in January by the Council for Aid to Education, a New York-based group.

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Harvard has led in receiving mega gifts. The largest donation to a charitable organization this year came in June, when hedge fund manager John Paulson pledged US$400 million to Harvard's engineering school, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. In 2014, Harvard got a US$350 million gift for its public health school.

Other significant gifts to schools this year include US$300 million to Princeton University from the estate of William Scheide and US$150 million to Yale University from Stephen Schwarzman.

Stanford became the first university to collect more than US$1 billion in a year, in fiscal 2012, according to the Council for Aid to Education. After leading all schools, it trailed Harvard last year with donations of US$928 million. It hasn't reported results for 2015 yet.

The university ended the year with a budget surplus of 1 per cent, driven by the increased giving, according to Thomas Hollister, Harvard's finance chief.

"The campaign was a wonderful contributor," Hollister said in a statement. "We're very fortunate to have so many caring and generous alumni and friends of the university." While Harvard said its finances were strong, it expressed concern about its main sources of revenue - tuition, federal research funding and transfers from its US$37.6 billion endowment, the largest in higher education. It spent US$1.6 billion from its endowment to cover operational expenses last year, it said. Total financial aid outlays by the university were US$520 million.

"Federal research funding has flattened, tuition growth is constrained by structural affordability issues, and capital market returns are uncertain and volatile," it wrote in the annual report.


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