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Penn State Tops In Alumni Donors

For the fourth straight year, Penn State has had more alumni donate money than any other school in the country.

While former Penn Staters didn't give more money than those of several other schools, the state's largest university had more alumni donors than No. 2 Harvard and No. 3 Michigan, according to preliminary data from the New York-based Council for Aid to Education.

Penn State had 71,423 donors, while Harvard had 66,138, according to the council. It total, they gave $50.7 million to Penn State in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2000.

"Philanthropy is a rapidly growing part of the culture at Penn State, and we fully expect that the trend is always going to be upward," said Rod Kirsch, vice president for development and alumni relations.

Private colleges and universities have been raising money for decades, but fund-raising has become a way of life for many state institutions, said Larry Goldstein, senior vice president with the National Association for College and University Business Officers.

"Public institutions have become much more aggressive in terms of fund raising in the last 20 years (because) states are not supporting higher education at the levels needed to keep up with increasing costs," Goldstein said.

The money often pays for capital projects and scholarships.

Penn State's appropriations from the state typically go up every year, but they haven't covered all the increases in operating costs, university spokesman Steve MacCarthy said. As a result, the university has had to cut costs and raise tuition.

That's because most donors restrict their gifts for certain uses. The university can't use most private gifts for operating expenses.

Last year, for example, donors gave a total of $171 million to the university, but 99 percent was earmarked, Kirsch said.

"Private support can make and has made the university more affordable because a large portion of it is for scholarships," Kirsch said. "The biggest part of our campaign and the most successful part has been for scholarships."

Since the start of a seven-year fund-raising program called "Grand Destiny," 764 new student scholarships and fellowships have been endowed for a total of $195 million, Kirsch said.

The donations are a long way from 1983, when Penn State's endowment stood at about $38 million. In June, its endowment hit $1 billion, making it one of 48 universities with 10-figure or larger endowments, according to the Council for Aid to Education.

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