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CU reaching for $1.5 billion

The University of Colorado this week launched the public phase of a $1.5 billion fund-raising campaign intended to support scholarships, provide faculty and program improvements, pay for buildings and support research at CU’s four campuses.

As is the practice with such campaigns, the effort has been in a “silent” phase since 2006 and some $900 million already has been raised. The effort continues until the full $1.5 billion goal has been reached.

CU President Bruce Benson was quick to note at a Monday announcement that such gifts aren’t a substitute for ever-dwindling state funding. Such outside support “will not make up for the steep declines in state funding,” Benson said, noting that CU depends on state funds and tuition for operating revenue and that gifts generally are restricted in their use.

Gov. John Hickenlooper dropped in at the event to lend his support, also saying, “This does not in any way reduce the obligation of the legislature or the state” to support higher education.

Hickenlooper is known for his propensity to go without a necktie, and Benson greeted him saying, “I know that you never come properly dressed.” The president then whipped out a bright gold CU tie and halted the festivities while Hickenlooper knotted it around his neck.

Benson said the system’s total annual budget now is about $2.7 billion, about 5 percent of that from the state.

Of the money raised so far, about half has gone to research, 28 percent to faculty and program improvements, 13 percent to capital improvements and 8.5 percent to scholarships, said L. Wayne Hutchens, president of the University of Colorado Foundation. “We expect to see that pattern continue,” he said.

Hutchens said CU has averaged about $105 million in giving in each of the last five years, which have been the best five years in its fund-raising history.

Along with Benson and his wife Marcy, co-chairs of the campaign, Hutchens is a key figure in the effort.

Among major donors to the campaign so far are the Anschutz Foundation (more than $40 million), the Gates Frontiers Fund (more than $14 million), the ALSAM Foundation (more than $12 million) and $5 million from Pinnacol Assurance. An anonymous donor gave $5.5 million, mostly for scholarships at the Colorado Springs campus, and the estate of Louise Bennett Reed gave nearly $5 million for athletic scholarships at Boulder.

For more information, see the campaign website.

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