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Focused efforts by public universities in Massachusetts to boost private fundraising during a time of shrinking state support have paid off.
The five-campus University of Massachusetts system and the nine-campus state university network nearly doubled their annual private fundraising totals over the past decade.
Yearly donations to the UMass campuses increased from $63 million in the 2004 fiscal year to $111.5 million in 2014, according to state statistics. Massachusetts' state universities saw annual private gifts jump from $9.4 million to $18 million over that span.
In the past four months alone, UMass-Amherst has received gifts of $10.3 million and $10 million; Bridgewater State announced a record $3 million gift; and UMass-Boston received a $1 million donation.
"The numbers are better than they've ever been, and I'm very pleased with the progress we're making, but we have a long way to go where we need to be," UMass system President Robert Caret told The Boston Globe. The system is in the midst of its first system-wide capital campaign, seeking to raise about $1 billion.
"If we're going to continue what we do - the education piece, the research piece, the social well-being piece - and to keep student costs affordable going forward, we will need other revenue sources," Caret said.
Although Massachusetts has increased funding for higher education over the past several years, the level of support is still significantly down from the early 2000s.
Private donations are more important than ever.
"If you factor in inflation, the cost of an education at UMass has actually stayed about the same," UMass-Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan said. "What has shifted is who pays for it. It's gone from the state paying for most of it to students and families picking up most of the burden. So there's a real need for private fundraising."