Top 20 fundraising universities

Stanford University
Image courtesy of Flickr user Hugo Pardo Kuklinki

This could be a sign of a recovering economy: Americans are feeling more charitable toward colleges and universities.

In 2011, colleges and universities received $30.3 billion in donations, an 8.2 percent increase over the previous year, according to a new report from the Council for Aid to Education. Giving hasn't reached this level since its historic high of $31.6 billion in 2008, before the markets cratered.

What's clear when looking at the council's newly released figures is this: donors are most generous to the nation's richest universities. 

The 20 schools that enjoyed the largest charitable windfalls received 27.2 percent of all of the contributions people made to colleges and universities in 2011. That's mind boggling considering that these schools represent only 2 percent of the 1,009 institutions surveyed. Here is another fact that illustrates just how lopsided higher-ed giving is: 25 percent of the institutions attracted 86 percent of the donations.

In contrast, the bottom half of institutions, in terms of donations, attracted a mere 4.5 percent of charitable contributions.

Stanford University pocketed the most donations ($709 million) followed by Harvard ($639 million) and Yale ($580 million).

20 Top Fundraising Institutions

Here are the 20 universities, according to the Council for Aid to Education, that raked in the most donations in 2011:

Where the donations came from

The largest source of collegiate donations came from foundations (28.6 percent), while alumni (25.7 percent) represented the second largest donation source. Individuals who were not alumni made up the third largest giving group (18.6 percent), followed by corporations (16.6 percent). 

One thing the list reveals is that foundations, individuals and corporations give the bulk of their donations to the institutions that need the money the least.

Stanford University image courtesy of Flickr user Hugo Pardo Kuklinki.