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Financial donations last year to colleges and universities rose to the highest amount since 2008. It's one sign that the economy might be finding its feet. On a list released today by the Council for Aid to Education, the usual schools demonstrate their fundraising prowess: Harvard, Yale, USC, and topping them all is Stanford. In 2012, it became the first university to raise more than a billion dollars in a single year. Yes, that's billion with a B.
NPR's Richard Gonzales reports on how Stanford brought in that money and what the school might do with it.
RICHARD GONZALES, BYLINE: Stanford has raised more money than any other school for the past eight years. And it's been on top of the fundraising pyramid for 14 of the past 30 years.
MARTIN SHELL: You know, we remain in awe and are humbled by this level of support.
GONZALES: Martin Shell is Stanford's vice president for development.
SHELL: You know, most people view education as that transformative opportunity to make the world a better place and to make lives better. And we feel very fortunate that our donors want to be a part of that at Stanford.
GONZALES: Shell says some of the money will be spent to keep Stanford education accessible. Stanford is among the elite schools that will admit an undergrad regardless of his or her parents' ability to pay.
SHELL: We put nearly $100 million into student support last year, either in the form of endowment for undergraduate financial aid or expendable dollars that were used to help underwrite student tuition at the undergraduate as well as the graduate and professional school level.
GONZALES: And Shell says the school is also plowing more money into constructing new buildings, research and the university's permanent endowment.
The school received help from nearly 79,000 donors. One hundred million dollars came from a Silicon Valley investor, Robert King and his wife, Dorothy.
Stanford's location in the heart of Silicon Valley is a major factor in its fundraising success, says Scott Jaschik, editor of the journal Inside Higher Ed.
SCOTT JASCHIK: Stanford has an amazing record of graduating people who change business and industry in ways that make them very wealthy and who feel incredible loyalty to the institution.
GONZALES: But as Jaschik says, it's one thing to feel loyal to your school and it's another to open your wallet. The Council for Aid to Education has been tracking charitable giving to American colleges and universities since 1957. The high point in giving came just before the economy tanked in 2008 when schools raised $31.6 billion.
So coming in just below that last year is encouraging, says Ann Kaplan, the council's survey director.
ANN KAPLAN: It's still a good result because the economy has been mixed. You know, fundraising tends to follow the same patterns as the economy as a whole.
GONZALES: Still, the upswing in charitable giving to higher education is a modest 2.3 percent more than last year. In really good years, donations to college and universities are double that percentage.
Richard Gonzales, NPR News, San Francisco.