U-M seeks to diversify its sources of support
Op-ed for The Detroit News, November 17, 2008
Private support is expanding the University of Michigan's impact as a great public university at a time when the services it provides to the state have never been more critical.
With the news that U-M raised more than $3.1 billion in a historic eight-year fundraising campaign, Michigan residents should take pride in knowing so many people are investing in one of this state's great public assets.
Our university has always relied upon philanthropy, beginning with a gift of land from Native Americans in 1817 that would become our financial foundation. This latest show of support from the Michigan Difference campaign comes from nearly 365,000 donors — the equivalent of every resident of Dearborn, Canton, Royal Oak and Sterling Heights contributing to our university. And nearly 60 percent of the dollars raised have come from outside of our state; that represents $1.8 billion pumped into Michigan by individuals from around the world who believe the University of Michigan is a worthy investment.
Regardless of our donors' home addresses, their dollars broaden U-M's commitment to our state.
The benefits of this latest fundraising campaign for Michigan residents include $519 million in support for students, with an emphasis on need-based financial aid; state-of-the-art medical facilities devoted to depression, diabetes, and maternal and children's care; and a performing arts hall and expanded museums of art and archaeology that complement the rich cultural offerings of southeastern Michigan.
The impact of these gifts is beyond calculation. Philanthropy helps deepen U-M's work in advanced manufacturing, biomedical sciences, alternative energy, and countless other disciplines that will contribute to the revitalization of our state's economy with creative graduates, new technologies, and life-changing health care.
Our need for diversifying our financial base has never been greater, as public financing of higher education nationwide is on a slow, steady decline.
Last year, for the first time in U-M history, the total funds received from private sources equaled our level of state aid, and that pattern continues. This watershed event portends the future funding strategy for public universities.
At U-M, we will continue to make the case that Michigan's institutions of higher education are among our state's greatest assets, and that more public investment is essential to our competitiveness as a state, and a nation.
The University of Michigan will never stray from its public mission — it is a birthright we prize. As long as we receive one dollar from the state, we will be a public university.
At the same time, we must continue to seek private support. We are always thinking about the future, and that future must include a pragmatic approach to the financial underpinnings of this great university.
While private support has always been at the core of private universities, it has become increasingly so for the publics as well.
Whether we are in a formal fundraising campaign or not, philanthropy is now absolutely vital to U-M's mission of serving our state.
As we celebrate this latest fundraising campaign, the greatest gift we have received is the confidence in the University of Michigan that donors have shown by investing in our future.