SAN FRANCISCO -- Stanford University has set a new record for college fundraising, becoming the first school to collect more than $1 billion in a single year, according to a report released Wednesday.
For the eighth straight year, Stanford ranked first in the Council for Aid to Education's annual college fundraising survey, which shows that elite institutions continue to grab a disproportionate share of donor dollars.
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In the 2012 fiscal year, roughly 3,500 U.S. colleges and universities raised $31 billion, 2.3 percent more than the previous year. The record was set in 2008 when schools took in $31.6 billion before fundraising dropped during the height of the financial crisis.
"We're climbing out of the doldrums," said survey director Ann Kaplan. "We haven't returned to the high point of 2008, but we're approaching it. I think you can say that about a lot of industries."
Topping the list was Stanford at $1.035 billion, followed by Harvard University at $650 million, Yale University at $544 million, the University of Southern California at $492 million and Columbia University at $490 million.
The top 10 fundraising colleges collected $5.3 billion, or 17 percent, of the $31 billion, even though they represent only 0.3 percent of the 3,500 accredited, nonprofit schools included in the survey.
The 10-campus University of California system raised $1.56 billion. That sum includes $405 million collected by UC Berkeley, which was the leading fundraiser among all public universities. UCLA took in $344 million and UC San Francisco raised $329 million.
Stanford benefited from a surge in donations at the end of its multi-year Stanford Challenge fundraising campaign, which netted $6.2 billion. It also benefited from the successful launch of a $1 billion campaign for its medical school and hospitals.
Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Stanford's alumni list includes the founders of major tech companies like Yahoo Inc. who have given to the school in recent years.
Stanford raised 46 percent more in its 2012 fiscal year than the $709 million it collected in 2011 and surpassed its previous record of $911 million set in 2006. The $1.035 billion haul is equal to nearly $56,000 for each of its roughly 18,500 undergraduate and graduate students, though much of the money will be used for research and construction.
By contrast, San Jose State University, a public college 20 miles away, raised $14 million, which is equal to $450 for each of its 31,000 students.
Stanford received donations from nearly 79,000 donors, including $100 million of a $150 million gift from Silicon Valley investor Robert King and his wife Dorothy to establish the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies.
"We are in awe and remain humbled by this kind of response. It was a remarkable showing of generosity," said Martin Shell, Stanford's vice president for development. "Higher education for most people represents hope for a better future, and donors want to invest in that."