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Posted: April 01, 2012

State of the state: Education

CSU Tempers State Cuts by Topping $500 Million Fundraising Goal

Maria Martin

The news is full of dire reports that state funding to Colorado’s top universities has plummeted. But those worried that the quality of education may slip should glance quickly over the gloom and doom stories, then look for the more cheerful headlines.

For instance, Colorado State University recently made news when it exceeded its goal of raising $500 million over seven years. With state tax funds on the decline, the generosity of alums and other individuals is all-important, says Brett Anderson, who oversees fundraising efforts for the university.

But donations from companies like Hewlett-Packard, Saunders Construction and EKS&H were really pivotal in helping the university meet its goal, Anderson says.

"Corporations are critical to our success," says Anderson, vice president for advancement at the university. "We’re at $515 million right now, and a little more than $178 million of that is from corporations and businesses."

Overall, Anderson says, CSU has seen a 50 percent increase in private support this current year.

Like CSU, the University of Colorado has seen an outpouring of support for the school.

A $1.5 billion dollar campaign called "Creating Futures" was announced in April 2011.

To date, CU has raised $1.1 billion. The CU Foundation, the fundraising arm of the university, raises around $100 million in gifts every year.

"Around 30 percent of that comes from corporations," said Jeremy Simon, spokesman for the foundation. "Many of these companies are based here, and they have a strong business interest here."

They may also be supporting technologies that enhance their industry, Simon adds.

The power of the faculty and staff of CU’s four campuses makes a strong statement.

"We’re really standing on the shoulders of giants," he says.

Many companies, Simon said, make gifts to specific schools at CU. For instance, Encana’s donation was earmarked to help establish a Global Energy management program at the CU Denver business school. ConocoPhillips, which has long been a big donor, donated $3.5 million toward a new biotechnology building at CU-Boulder.

And Greenwood Village-based CoBank donated $2.5 million to the CU Denver business school to launch a Center for Commodities.

Bob Engel, CoBank’s president and chief executive officer, says the center will fill a pressing business and educational need.

"As a provider of credit to agribusiness and energy cooperatives across the U.S., we have a strong interest in commodity markets and the impact they have on our customers and rural America," Engel said.

Simon points out that all of the businesses that donate to CU have the future in mind.

"They want to make a statement," Simon said. "When you’re looking at having a strong work force, eradicating disease and strengthening our culture ... well, CU has a stake in all of these."

Corporations, said CSU’s Anderson, have also sponsored $200 million in additional money for research.

"They’re giving money, but they get something in return," Anderson said. "CSU is doing research specific to their company."

They’re also providing companies with their most essential tools: Skilled employees.

"One businessman once told me, ‘When I hire someone from CSU, I get an Ivy League-educated person with the willingness of someone who is ready to roll up his sleeves and get the job done,’" Anderson said. "When our students graduate, they’re capable of doing the job on day one."

Maria Martin is a freelance writer.

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