Business

US colleges raise record amounts

Harvard University received $1.05 billion in charitable contributions last year.
AP/file 2012
Harvard University received $1.05 billion in charitable contributions last year.

The nation’s colleges and universities raised a record amount of money last year, and near the top of the list is a school famous for its prodigious fund-raising: Harvard University, which received $1.05 billion in charitable contributions in 2015.

Harvard’s money-raising prowess was exceeded only by Stanford University, which raised $1.63 billion, the most ever reported, according to an annual survey conducted since 1957 by the Council for Aid to Education, a New York nonprofit that studies private giving to education.

Last year, the two schools flipped roles, with Harvard raising a record $1.16 billion in a single year and Stanford coming in second place, with $928 million. That was the first time in a decade that Harvard raised more money annually than Stanford.

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Only one other Massachusetts school was ranked among the 20 highest fundraisers in academia: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose 2015 haul was $439.4 million.

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The gifts received by those 20 top fund-raising institutions accounted for almost 30 percent of the $40.3 billion in contributions made last year to US colleges and universities, continuing a trend in which the country’s richest schools receive a disproportionate share of higher education philanthropy.

The increase in donations was largely driven by gifts from alumni and individuals, rather than by charitable support from organizations, foundations, and corporations, according to the council. And last year’s gifts — in the form of money and appreciated property, such as art and rare books — included eight contributions of $100 million or more.

Among those mega-donations was the $400 million given by billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson to Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. That was the largest gift in Harvard’s history and earned Paulson his name on the building, which is now called the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Sacha Pfeiffer can be reached at pfeiffer@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @SachaPfeiffer.