Fancy Fundraising’s New Frontier: Community Colleges

Career College Central summary:

  • Community colleges are joining the fundraising frenzy thanks to deep cuts of 28 percent in state allocations for higher education since the start of the economic downturn in 2008, combined with pressure to keep tuition within reach of the low-income students who make up much of their enrollments.
  • At a time when the average research or doctoral university raises more than $90 million a year, the typical community college gets barely $1 million in donations, the Council for Aid to Education says. Total average annual contributions to each of the 207 mid-Atlantic and northeastern community colleges whose financial records it reviewed came to $771,823, according to the Wilmington Trust report. More than one in five don’t even have fundraising foundations.
  • Investments from community colleges’ endowments, combined, earn $27.6 million a year, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. That’s how much Harvard alone makes from its $32.7 billion endowment about every two and a half days.
  • Community colleges are trying to coax their alumni to support them at a time when graduates from all types of higher-education institutions seem less and less inclined to give back. The proportion of alumni who contribute to their alma maters of any type has declined by one-third in the last 10 years, the consulting firm Eduventures reports.
  • Nor are many community college students in a position to make financial contributions. Forty-one percent fall below the poverty line, and more than a third who live apart from their families make less than $20,000 a year, according to the community college association. Even after graduating, they can expect to earn, on average, a third less than bachelor’s degree-holders, and two thirds less than people with master’s degrees. In a survey conducted by one community college last year, the most common reason given by alumni for not contributing, by far, was that they simply couldn’t afford it.

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