Published: Sept. 1, 2009 By

bruce d benson

Casey A. Cass

In this difficult economy, where news ranges from bad to horrible, positive signs are always welcome. So it was gratifying to learn from figures tallied at fiscal-year end on June 30 that the University of Colorado recorded its second-best fundraising year.

Our donors contributed to CU’s campuses a total of $134.4 million to our faculty and students, programs and initiatives, and infrastructure. This is short of the record $162.5 million raised in 2007-08, but given the economic times, the result is worth cheering. Furthermore, more than 19,000 Boulder alumni, the most ever, donated to our alma mater.

It’s important to note that contributions are targeted by donors to specific areas and do not offset steady declines in our state appropriation, one of our key sources of operating revenue. We still face problems there. While fundraising dollars add value to people, programs and places of donors’ choosing, they generally do not help pay salaries, upgrade technology or turn on lights in classrooms.

Still, the fact that our alumni and friends showed such confidence in the university is telling. Their investments support everything from scholarships for deserving students to improving rural health care to connecting law school students with real-world clients in need. Contributions allow us to do things we would not otherwise have the resources to do.

Fundraising is critical to our success, and we appreciate how our alumni and friends have stepped up. But just as important are the contributions our alumni make to the economic, cultural and social well-being of our state and beyond. They teach in schools around Colorado and across the country. They make sustainability a reality. They probe the far reaches of space. They serve their communities.

Our reputation is perhaps our most important asset. It is driven in large measure by the accomplishments of our alumni. A sound reputation leads to many positive outcomes: in fundraising, state support, research awards and overall confidence in CU.

Additionally, holding an advanced degree plays a significant role in this economy. Last month, a Wall Street Journal column by Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities president Peter McPherson related that figures for May show that those with a bachelor’s degree had an unemployment rate of 4.8 percent; associate’s degree, 7.7 percent; high school diploma, 10 percent; and less than a high school diploma, 15.5 percent. A college degree matters.

CU alumni make a difference, whether contributing to the economy, society or our university.