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In higher education, multibillion dollar fundraising campaigns keep going higher

Stock photo from Bogdan Migulski/Flickr Creative Commons

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UCLA is kicking off a five year, $4.2 billion fundraising campaign, which it’s billing as the largest fundraising effort ever for a public university.

UCLA says the $4.2 billion breaks down like this:

That $4.2 billion may seem like a lot, until you compare it to the $6 billion USC has said it wants to raise by 2018, or the $6.5 billion goal Harvard set last fall. UCLA’s last campaign, which ended almost a decade ago, raised just over $3 billion. With less public money available, higher costs, and inflation, you have to keep setting the bar higher, according to Ann Kaplan, a researcher at the Council for Aid to Education.

“Of course you would expect the goals to getting larger and larger,” said Kaplan. “It’s very unusual for an institution to announce a goal and not be able to reach it. You don’t announce a goal until you have certain leadership gifts in place.”

Indeed, despite a fundraising drive that’s officially barely a day old, UCLA has already raised 31 percent of the money it needs to bring in by 2019. The school says it brought in $1.3 billion in cash and pledges during a private fundraising campaign that kicked off two years ago. When Harvard started their campaign last year, it already had nearly $3 billion in the bank.

UCLA's new campaign comes almost exactly a year after UCLA's Laboratory of Neuro Imaging moved to USC, in what was seen as a major coup for USC.

Luring away star faculty is one thing, but getting an entire lab to relocate is "unprecedented", according to Elizabeth Scarborough, a Virginia-based marketing consultant specializing in colleges and universities.

She said hiring top talent like Thompson and Toga will not only help USC attract the best students, it'll aid fundraising efforts.

Correction: An earlier version of this story inaccurately stated that UCLA was a private university rather than a public one. KPCC regrets the error.