UMass looks to improve through ongoing fundraising effort

By Brian Bevilacqua

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Buoyed by donations from the public, the University of Massachusetts has raised $200 million in the midst of its most expansive fundraising campaign in its 150-year history, named “UMass Rising.”

Several million of these donations were raised over the summer from alumni donations, elevating “UMass Rising” from the $183 million it stood at as the campaign began its public phase last spring. A summer of giving put the campaign on a successful trajectory.

Through donations from alumni and philanthropists, the university is on pace to reach its goals for expansion and improvements throughout the campus. The ongoing fundraising is about two-thirds of the way towards its goal of $300 million.

“UMass Rising” began on Jan. 1, 2010 in its “quiet phase,” during which the university collected donations from many frequent givers. The campaign was publicly announced during UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy’s inauguration last spring when the school already passed the halfway mark in its fundraising efforts in the hope of encouraging others to give the state’s flagship university the final push towards its goals.

UMass has seen an increase in applications, leading the university to push for further improvements to sustain interest in the school. The public push for more donations to the flagship campus has been coupled by talk of elevating UMass to one of the top schools in the nation, requiring funding that could reach billions of dollars to rival other large state schools

Fredrika Clement, one of the many university officials organizing the campaign, outlined the goals of “UMass Rising.”

“Obviously our main priorities in promoting donations are scholarships and funding for research grants and maintaining a top facility for our students,” Clement said.

Goals of the campaign include $55 million for merit and need based scholarships, and $97 million for research program funding. There are also two goals of $54 million — one for sustaining an elite faculty and one for building the infrastructure of UMass.

Part of the infrastructure donations will go toward repairing and reopening the Old Chapel, which has been closed for 17 years. These goals go much further than the school’s previous fundraising campaign, which concluded in 2001 at $130 million total, according to The Daily Hampshire Gazette.

While all donations go specifically towards the donor’s requested area, the university is also encouraging donors to help sustain its annual fund, which consistently provides the school with the money required to remain competitive among other top universities.

The “UMass Rising” campaign, which appears successful thus far, comes at a difficult time for college funding. The average UMass student graduates with approximately $28,000 in debt, according to a Collegian article, (https://dailycollegian.com/2013/04/11/how-umass-is-rising-up-against-student-debt/), and there have already been large sums of money committed towards improving the school at a time where there are limits imposed on public spending. The “UMass Rising” campaign aims to improve the university without further burdening the students who take on debt while attending college, although it is not clear if the campaign will alleviate the burden students already bear.

While rallying public support for funding, UMass President Robert Caret wrote a letter in The Boston Globe supporting an increase in state support for the school in order to allow a tuition and fees freeze for UMass students. The state agreed to increase funding to a 50/50 split between the state and the school itself, but under Caret’s promise, UMass would make its money stretch further than in the past and provide the state with a top university.

Caret said of UMass’ recent increase in popularity and prestige, “This trajectory of excellence, however, is threatened by the realities of the current economic climate. Our ability to provide financial help to talented and in-need students is at risk.”

Brian Bevilacqua can be reached at [email protected]