Donors give record $145M to U

More than 5,000 of the donors were faculty and staff, a 9 percent increase over a year ago.

Mehgan Lee

A record-breaking number of donors gave $145 million in gifts and pledges to the University during the 2004 fiscal year.

The majority of the 81,979 donors are alumni, comprising 52 percent of the total.

More than 5,000 of the donors were faculty and staff, a 9 percent increase from more than a year ago. The increase occurred during a year that saw salary freezes and rising health-care costs at the University.

“We pushed health-care costs up and froze wages, and our faculty and staff still made donations,” University chief financial officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said.

Terry Tranter, an accounting professor, said he donated $9,100 to the University during the last year.

“The salary freeze and health-care changes pissed me off, but that doesn’t affect my decision to give to the University,” he said.

Tranter said he donates money to honor his father and an influential accounting professor he had at the University, both of whom have died.

“That’s really my reason for giving, and the financial crunch really doesn’t affect that,” he said.

Tranter specified where he wanted the donations he made to go – toward accounting and continuing-education scholarships, as well as the business library.

Earmarks

Donors typically earmark their gifts, said Martha Douglas, director of communications for the University of Minnesota Foundation.

“Ninety-nine percent of gifts that come into the University are designated for a purpose the donors want,” she said.

The majority of the donations in the 2004 fiscal year were earmarked for academic program support, scholarships and fellowships, according to the foundation.

Estimates on which department received the most gifts are currently unavailable, but alumni tend to give to the college or department they attended, said Michael Peluso, associate director of communications at the foundation.

“So the big winners tend to be the colleges and departments with the biggest number of alumni,” he said. “It’s a factor of their size.”

Tuition costs

Many students wonder if the 2004 donations will offset rising tuition costs, following a 14 percent increase in tuition this year and an approximately 50 percent increase in the last three years.

The $40 million donated in scholarships and fellowships helps offset tuition costs, Douglas said.

But “gifts are not made to bring tuition down,” she said.

Many of the donations that are made over multiple years, are put in endowments or come in the form of future gifts.

“It’s not all cash in the door the University can use,” Douglas said.

State funding has the most influence on tuition rates, Pfutzenreuter said.

And donors should not have to substitute what the Legislature should be doing, Douglas said.

“They are more interested in supplementing the core funding they think should come from the Legislature,” she said.

The University has lost $185 million in state funding since 2003. Now, the University receives barely 3.8 percent of the state budget. In 1989, the University received 7 percent of the state budget, Pfutzenreuter said.

The University’s budget for fiscal year 2004 to 2005 is $2.1 billion. State funding makes up 28 percent of revenues, tuition makes up 21 percent, and gifts and endowments make up 5 percent.

Craig Swan, vice provost for undergraduate education, said the success of the University depends on donations now more than ever.

“We’re very grateful for the support that people give us,” he said.

Discontent

Some students and faculty said they are unhappy with how revenues are handled at the University.

Britt Johnson, president of the Council of Graduate Students, said she disapproves of using University funding for the wall of honor currently being built at the McNamara alumni center.

“It’s very attractive and a unique focal point for the University. But in a time of budget crises, it’s kind of disappointing that that’s where money is going,” she said.

Tranter said he believes University President Bob Bruininks needs to prioritize the budget and revenues better, he said.

“There is money for tuition reduction if he makes the tough decisions,” Tranter said.

“And the University president so far hasn’t made the tough decisions.”