University hopes to raise $4 billion in Victors for Michigan campaign

Tracy Ko/Daily
University President Mary Sue Coleman speaks at the press conference for the Victors for Michigan campaign at Hill Auditorium Thursday. Buy this photo

By Sam Gringlas, Daily Staff Reporter
and Jennifer Calfas, Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 7, 2013

The University announced Thursday that the Victors for Michigan campaign will be the largest fundraising drive for a public institution in history — with an ambitious $4 billion goal.

Victors for Michigan, the University’s sixth major fundraising campaign, will launch Nov. 8. The University’s last campaign, The Michigan Difference, raised $3.2 billion between 2000 and 2008 — surpassing its original goal of $2.5 billion.

University President Mary Sue Coleman said last winter that the primary priority for the campaign will be student support through financial aid. At Coleman’s leadership breakfast last month, Coleman reiterated that $1 billion in campaign funds will be focused on student support.

Just like the last campaign, Coleman said in an interview after the event that passing the $4-billion mark is possible.

“It is always possible that if the campaign is phenomenally successful, then maybe midway we could raise it,” Coleman said. “There’s a lot of analysis that goes into doing it, but I feel really good about this number. It’s a very audacious campaign.”

Campaign organizers have made students central to campaign strategy, not only creating goals for student support, but also in involving students in campaign planning and marketing. The Office of Development created a student campaign committee — the first of its kind at the University — consisting of 19 members from various undergraduate and graduate schools to assist in the fundraising and planning process.

The campaign will also focus on raising funds for developing a more engaged learning environment in the classroom and producing ideas to aid worldwide problems. After the event, University Provost Martha Pollack said the three priorities for the campaign intersect, meaning that students could participate in research projects addressing global issues, and gain valuable learning experiences outside the classroom.

“As the chief academic officer, I couldn’t be happier about the priorities,” Pollack said. “I think those three priorities are just perfectly aligned with what we want to be as an educational institution.”

The University’s newest campaign launches against a backdrop of depressed state appropriations and rising tuition rates. In June, the University's Board of Regents approved a 1.1 and 3.2 percent increase in tuition for in-state and out-of-state students respectively — the lowest 29 years.

“We believe that by judiciously controlling our costs and tuition increases, while also committing university funds for financial aid, we can join with donors to make it possible for the best students, from any socio-economic background, to afford to get a Michigan education,” Regent Andrea Fischer Newman (R) said in a statement.

Many institutions across the country are carrying out similar fundraising drives — but the University's goal is closer to many private schools than public peers. Harvard University is currently in the midst of the largest fundraising drive in the history of higher education — with an ambitious $6.5 billion goal. The campaign launched earlier this year and will conclude in 2018.

LSA Interim Dean Susan Gelman wrote in an e-mail that her priorities for the campaign focus on financial aid, including scholarships dedicated to assisting students pay for study abroad and internship experiences, as well as undergraduate research opportunities.

“We are committed to the liberal arts, and we have evidence from the stories of our alumni that scholarship support makes a tremendous difference, not only for an individual student — maybe the first in his or her family to attend college — but also for siblings, relatives, and entire communities who are inspired and encouraged by seeing dreams become reality,” Gelman wrote.

The University has received $1.7 billion in gifts in the two years leading up to the official kickoff on Friday.

In the last few months, donations from philanthropists including Stephen Ross, Charles Munger, Penny Stamps, Helen Zell and the Rogel and Frankel families have donated gifts earmarked for an array of new facilities, scholarships and programs.

Coleman said these leadership gifts highlight diverse areas of the University — ranging from arts and humanities to the Business School, student support and athletics. She added that the flagship donations serve as examples for smaller benefactors.

Ross, who donated $200 million in September to his namesake business school and the Athletic Department, serves as chair of the campaign.

On Wednesday, the University announced a $50 million donation from Richard and Susan Rogel — which will benefit the Medical School and the Center for Chinese Studies. Richard Rogel served as chair of The Michigan Difference campaign and will serve as vice chair of the Victors for Michigan campaign — spearheading the overall push for student support.

Three students attended the press conference to answer questions about how the campaign will support them. LSA senior Katherine Man, a non-resident student and a member of the Global Scholars program, said without her financial aid, she would not have been able to attend the University.

“This opens the opportunities for students who are good students but don’t have the financial means,” Man said.

The Victors for Michigan campaign kick-off will begin Friday at 5 p.m. with a community festival in Ingalls Mall, the main event in Hill Auditorium and an after-party, ending at 10 p.m.