Columbia University officially kicked off the largest fundraising drive ever attempted by an institution of higher learning this week with the announcement of a new capital campaign with a target goal of $1.15 billion over the next five years.
At a Tuesday dinner for alumni that honored 20 Nobel Prize laureates affiliated with the university, Columbia President Michael I. Sovern officially announced the start of the fund drive.
Columbia officials said yesterday that the money raised will be used towards renovation of facilities, teaching and research, financial aid--plus as many as 100 new endowed chairs.
"We're very much excited about this development," said Columbia Provost Jonathan R. Cole. "The fundraising drive is oriented towards recruiting young, able people and improving existing facilities."
The announcement comes at a time when several other large universities--Harvard among them--are planning or in the midst of their own ambitious campaigns.
Stanford University is wrapping up a $1.1 billion dollar campaign, and Harvard is working on the details of a $2 billion-plus effort, pending approval from the University's next president.
Columbia officials said yesterday that the university is not worried about competition from other high-profile institutions.
"I suppose that there may be some overlap with foundations that we both have relationships with," said Gerald B. Finch, Columbia's budget director. "However, our alumni base is the core of the campaign and probably doesn't overlap to a great degree."
"I hope we're all successful," said Martin Meisel, vice-president of Columbia's department of arts and sciences. "We're all in the same boat, and the state of the private research university is one that is very critical."
Joseph Giovannelli, assistant vice president of Columbia's arts and sciences department, said the university needs more than just tuition money if it is expected to compete for top faculty.
"We're much less endowed than other Ivy League schools, and we want to increase the amount of endowment we have in relation to our size," Giovannelli said.
The campaign will also be important for the university because of "increasing oil prices, a shaky investment climate, and government cuts," Finch said.
"Private research facilities, in particular, are very hard-pressed for funds at this time," said.
Finch added that the university will increasingly rely on philanthropy in a decade that he said would be extremely difficult for higher education. "It is our one ray of light in an otherwise bleak decade," he said.
Pointing to past fundraising success and the potential to tap new donors, Columbia University officials said they are optimistic about the campaign.