U of M posts record year of giving

December 11, 2015

More than 78,000 donors made gifts, pledges and commitments totaling $351 million to the University of Minnesota in fiscal year 2015 (July 1, 2014-June 30, 2015), the highest fundraising total in the institution’s 164-year history.

The U’s Board of Regents heard today about the ways these private funds support the University’s mission. The news was delivered as part of the University of Minnesota Foundation’s (UMF) annual report.

“Our donors recognize the University’s immense value to the state of Minnesota, its citizens and economy,” said UMF President and CEO Kathleen Schmidlkofer. “These generous gifts support our faculty, students, colleges, academic programs and research enterprise. They accelerate the amazing work happening across these campuses to produce tomorrow’s leaders and tackle societies challenges.”

The $351 million in FY15 represents a nearly 20 percent increase from FY14 ($282 million) and is $62 million higher than the previous record, set in FY08. Two donors gave gifts of $25 million, nine gave gifts of more than $5 million and 63 donors gave gifts of more than $1 million.

“With their gifts to the University, donors are investing their resources in our mission to prepare students and improve the lives of all Minnesotans,” said University President Eric Kaler. “From empowering aspiring dentists in North Minneapolis, allowing a refugee to understand and navigate the complexities of asylum and developing an outdoor lab in Morris, Minn., we’re making a difference. Generous donors further this important work.”

As a result of endowment investment performance and estate (or deferred) gifts realized in FY15, the foundation distributed a record $196 million in private support to students, faculty, research, programs and capital projects across the University system.

Continued research growth
In his annual report to the Board, Vice President for Research Brian Herman highlighted that, in total, U of M faculty and staff were awarded $754M in externally sponsored research in fiscal year 2015, up 1.8 percent ($13M) from FY14. And that the University remains a Top Ten public research university, ranking eighth nationally and third in the Big Ten, according to the National Science Foundation's Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) Survey.

Federal awards, which remain the largest source of U of M research support, dipped 5.5 percent due largely due to a decrease and some delay in National Institutes of Health (NIH) awards, although support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) was up $13.2 million. Growing and diversified non-federal support helped offset federal declines, yielding a record level of research awards in FY15, when one-time federal stimulus funds in the previous five years are discounted.

Overall, private support of the University’s research enterprise increased 13.7 percent, and within that category, business and industry support grew more than 40 percent ($22.8M) in FY15, the largest growth in the last decade. In total, business and industry support now accounts for more than 10 percent ($78M) of all externally funded research the University.

“The increase in business and industry funding can be attributed in part to our focus on enhancing public-private partnerships,” said Herman. “This has allowed us to connect the University’s innovation and talent resources with the needs of private sector partners including PepsiCo, St. Jude Medical, Target Corp. and Boston Scientific. As federal resources remain static or decline, the importance of these partnerships continues to grow.”

Research highlights included a $20 million Phase II NSF grant to the Center for Sustainable Polymers to create non-petroleum based plastics that can biodegrade, a MnDRIVE project to use aerial drones and computer modeling to combat pests such as soybean aphids and a book chronicling four-and-a-half centuries of the Asian American experience.

Herman also noted that a technology commercialization remained an area of growth, with a record 16 start up companies launched, 354 invention disclosures and 268 new technology licenses in FY2015.

The Board also:

  • reviewed the annual University Plan, Accountability and Performance Report, with a focus on student diversity and academic successes across the U of M system. In addition to campus-by-campus statistics, the report outlines ways in which the University delivers on its mission of teaching, research and outreach. Chancellors from Crookston, Duluth, Morris and Rochester showcased how their campuses are making impacts not only where they’re located but across the state and world.
  • discussed Academic Health Center (AHC) facility planning. Following a study of the AHC’s education and program needs, Regents discussed how these results affect facility needs. A full facility plan, with conclusions and recommendations, will be presented to the Board at its February 2016 meeting.
  • received an update on undergraduate education on the Twin Cities campus. Vice Provost and Dean Robert McMaster highlighted record numbers of applications, offers and enrolled first-year students; new highs in average incoming ACT scores (28.2); and graduation rates (63.3 percent in 4-years); and an increase in the percentage of undergraduate students of color (20.8 percent) on the Twin Cities campus. The increase in graduation rates since 2011 has reduced indebtedness by $7 million for UMTC students.
  • acted on a plan to advance key state priorities, anticipating the Minnesota Governor and Legislature might consider a supplemental budget bill in the 2016 legislative session. The request supports statewide health care training, education and services; continuing critical health care services; Minnesota’s mining region; and new cyber security technologies.

Read the President’s report to the Board.

The Board will next meet February 11-12, 2016. For more information, visit the Regents website.

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