The University of Texas has received $302 million in donations so far in the fiscal year that ends in August and, provided the gifts don’t dry up, is on track to have the best fundraising year in its history, officials announced Monday.
The $302 million is part of UT’s ambitious eight-year, $3 billion Campaign for Texas fundraising effort, set to end in August 2014. The university had raised $222 million by this time last year and has raised $2.1 billion since 2006. Officials said fundraising has become increasingly important for UT to maintain its status as a Tier One research university at a time when Texas is cutting funding for higher education.
UT reports that its 2012-13 operating budget is $2.35 billion. Money from the campaign is used to advance university goals, including creating scholarships for students, developing top-ranked programs and helping secure top-notch faculty members, officials said.
Monday’s announcement comes before meetings of the UT System Board of Regents that start Wednesday in Austin. In February, the board grilled UT President Bill Powers about not hiring a vice president for development, or fundraising, after the board told him to do so.
Randa Safady, UT System vice chancellor for external relations, Monday praised UT-Austin for its progress toward its $3 billion goal. However, Safady said, UT’s development office needs a full-time senior professional to maintain momentum.
“The point is not whether you’ve had a good year or a good five years,” Safady said. “This is a critically important operation for a university that’s charged with constantly developing sources of funds for the institution.”
Gary Susswein, a spokesman for UT, said the search for a vice president for development is moving forward but did not say when the university expected to fill the position.
Julie Hooper, UT associate vice president for development, said UT will have its best fundraising year in history if it surpasses $366 million by August, the record set in 2008.
Hooper said fundraising is up this year because of two significant gifts — $50 million from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation to create the Dell Medical School and $25 million from the Robert Rowling family for a new building for graduate business studies.
Ben De Leon, president of the Austin law firm De Leon & Washburn, estimates that he has given $20,000 since he graduated from the UT School of Law in 2004, money that has been used for student scholarships and faculty recruitment.
De Leon said the scholarships he received while he was in law school inspired him to give to UT after he graduated.
“It’s important to understand that UT is not rich,” De Leon said. “UT needs all the help it can get in terms of its initiatives. If we want to graduate these students in four years, my goodness, we need the funds to get that done.”