Dive Brief:

  • The University of California, Berkeley, is aiming to raise $6 billion by the end of 2023, joining a growing list of public universities that have set ambitious fundraising targets.
  • So far, the university is over halfway toward its goal, having raised $3.4 billion since the campaign’s soft launch in January 2014, according to an announcement Saturday. 
  • News of the fundraising push comes just days after the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), announced that it closed out a campaign that raised $5.5 billion. Public universities nationwide have looked to outside support to offset lower levels of state funding.

Dive Insight:

The campaign’s focus marks “a sharp departure” from the missions of previous comprehensive fundraising initiatives, according to UC Berkeley’s announcement.

“Now … we are raising funds for our core needs and activities,” UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ said in the statement, adding that it “may seem ironic” that private support is helping the university “secure and sustain our public character.”

As enrollment throughout the UC system expanded over the last three decades, state support declined, notes a 2018 report from UC Berkeley’s Center for Studies of Higher Education. Subsequent tuition increases, meanwhile, have not made up for the decrease in public dollars. These factors could cause the system to limit enrollment or to charge higher tuition for some campuses or degrees, the report’s authors say. 

Other research confirms that higher education has received a shrinking share of California’s general fund allocations over the past several decades.

UC Berkeley plans to use money from its latest campaign to add 100 tenure-track positions, 300 graduate student fellowships and more undergraduate scholarships. It also wants to support research and expand campus housing.

Public universities are growing their fundraising prowess, and UC Berkeley’s and UCLA’s campaigns are only the most recent examples. The University of Washington raised $5.9 billion toward its ongoing campaign as of December 2019, and the University of Michigan closed out a campaign in 2018 that generated $5 billion. Several other institutions are underway with fundraising efforts seeking to raise $4 million or more, according to records kept by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

If UC Berkeley meets or surpasses its goal, the effort would be one of the most lucrative among colleges yet. Harvard has the largest recorded campaign, which ended in 2018, at $9.6 billion. The University of Southern California follows at just over $7 billion, and a handful of others have in the last several years concluded campaigns coming in at or just over $6 billion, according to CASE.

So far, UC Berkeley’s campaign has wrangled a $252 million gift — the single-largest in the university’s history  that will be used to build a home for its new data science division. The institution announced plans to add the interdisciplinary division in late 2018, making it one of several colleges and universities to grow its footprint in the emerging field. 

The campaign also brought in a $50 million naming gift for the university’s College of Natural Resources to support work addressing climate change, the transition to clean energy and improving food insecurity.

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