Utah State University will never be the same.
That's how officials are describing the impact of the more than half a billion dollars raised during a six-year capital campaign the Logan-based research university concluded last week. The money, which far exceeded USU's target, helped raise numerous "new beacons on the hill" above Logan, expanded its satellite campuses in Tooele, Vernal, Price, Blanding, Brigham City and Moab, and endowed chairs, fellowships and scholarships.
"These facilities enhance the beauty of our campus but also represent, for generations to come, the level of heightened excellence we enjoy in our teaching, research, outreach and athletic missions," President Stan Al-brecht wrote in a statement announcing the conclusion of the campaign. "But the most important outcomes will likely be found in the sometimes less visible changes in individual lives."
Much of the campaign coincided with the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, yet the university was still able to more than double its initial $200 million goal, raising $513 million.
"It was a bit audacious in a difficult economy," Albrecht said. He said the gifts have allowed the school to expand research opportunities for undergraduates and attract and keep great faculty, not to mention reviving Aggie football, which last year celebrated its first winning regular season since 1979.
"The impact on our athletics operation is huge. We are very much in play now," Albrecht said. The campaign has "made it possible to upgrade facilities and hire the right coaching staff."
While there was much to celebrate in Logan, the successful capital campaign called "Honoring Tradition, Securing Our Future" reflects a tough new normal for higher education. Public schools must increasingly turn to private sources as state support dwindles.
According to a new report by the National Science Board, state support for the nation's 101 public research universities has declined during the past decade, failing to keep pace with inflation or increasing enrollment. Per-student funding has declined by 20 percent.
"This trend, if it continues or if other sources of support are not identified, threatens their continued capacity to attract the best talent, to provide quality education and training for the next generation of scientists and engineers, and to compete with their private counterparts and is likely to result in an ongoing increase in tuition and fees," the NSB report concluded.
Utah appears to be navigating these tricky times, although officials cautioned that the Beehive State must increase its investment if it is to achieve its goal of having two-thirds of the working-age population with some post-secondary degree or certificate by 2020.
The drop in per-student state funding for Utah's research universities was 5 percent, although appropriations remain well below national averages, according to the NSB report. But the state's research schools have been more successful than their peer institutions elsewhere at tapping private sources of funding.
"There is a real culture of philanthropy, of joining together for the common good in this state. It's in the DNA," said Fred Esplin, the University of Utah's associate vice president for advancement. The U. was among a handful of research institutions nationally whose fundraising yields have increased every year since recession-plagued 2008.
After almost seven years, the U.'s "Together We Reach" campaign has so far exceeded its $1.2 billion goal with more than a year left to go and has tapped some of the same foundations as USU. As of a month ago, the U. had raised $1.3 billion from a variety of sources, including at least $142.4 million from individual alumni, according to Esplin.
During the USU campaign, 31,000 alumni gave more than $106 million. This money helped endow almost 200 scholarship funds and 31 new programs.
One student who benefited was Kristopher King, who studied in Logan on a vocal-performance scholarship as the first in his family to attend college. King died last summer from a heart defect, and USU awarded him a degree posthumously, presenting it to his mother, according to Ross Peterson, a special assistant to the president.
Donations helped build 17 of USU's new or proposed 24 buildings, including the Bingham Entrepreneurship and Energy Research Center, Huntsman Hall, Manon Caine Russell Kathryn Caine Wanlass Performance Hall and the Engineering Building.
Some gifts came in the form of land, such as 25 acres on the edge of Price that may accommodate growth of the USU-Eastern campus and the 1,200-acre Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter in Park City.
During the campaign, four USU colleges were renamed to honor the foundations that provided infusions exceeding $25 million each: the Huntsman School of Business, the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services, the Caine College of the Arts and the S.J. and Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources.