This piece in the NYT this morning gives the latest info on donations raised by public and private universities in the US. Of course the big privates own this game, with Stanford alone raising $832 million in fiscal 2007. Yes, that's almost one billion dollars in a single year. That amount would be an impressive total endowment for almost any school in the country. For those of us who see easy access to high-quality higher education as a central part of a healthy society, this is unsettling for various reasons not discussed in the article, especially for state universities. For example, large chunks of that money is directed to specific areas, which may or may not serve the real needs of universities suffering the collapse of traditional public funds.
Wisconsin is on that list, of course, and very high up for a public institution. And Wisconsin has been very aggressive about raising this kind of money. But if you look at the graphic (linked in the on-line version, printed in the morning edition), you'll see that our rate of increase is extremely low.