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Originally published February 18, 2012 at 8:04 PM | Page modified February 18, 2012 at 8:43 PM

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UW donations hit record $334M

University of Washington donors have once again put the UW in the top tier of public schools that get the most private donations.

Seattle Times higher education reporter

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From checks for cancer research to anonymous gifts for student scholarships, University of Washington donors have again made record-setting contributions to the university in the last fiscal year.

In 2010-11, UW donors gave $334 million, a 17 percent increase from the previous year. That's enough to make the UW rank fourth among public universities in terms of private money raised that year.

Among all universities, it ranks 14th in the nation — lagging Stanford, Harvard and Yale, but besting Cornell and the University of California, Berkeley. That continues a five-year trend that puts the UW in the upper echelon of schools with the largest amounts of private donations.

"It's astounding to us, the generosity, the belief in the university," said Connie Kravas, vice president for university advancement, the office that raises private money for the UW.

The huge sum would seem to belie the university's oft-stated concerns about the impact of state cutbacks to higher education.

But almost all gifts come with strings attached: They're usually made to specific programs or for specific purposes, such as for construction of a new building or to establish a new scholarship. Except for a small portion of the total, they can't be used for the general, day-to-day expenses of running the university.

All the buildings on campus constructed since 1998 have been paid for largely through private donations, Kravas said. The rebuilding of Husky Stadium is one example: The construction is being funded through private giving — $46.1 million has been pledged to date — as well as through luxury-box sales and an overall increase in ticket prices.

Kravas said the UW has profited substantially from the community's wealth. Philanthropists who made fortunes in the high-tech industry have been especially generous, contributing millions of dollars to a wide variety of programs.

A big share of the contributions goes to UW Medicine, and much of it is earmarked for research into specific diseases, scholarship funds for medical-school students, and capital funds to finish new buildings in South Lake Union. The arts also draw numerous contributions in the form of scholarships for students, Kravas said, and the law and business schools get substantial contributions as well.

She described Seattle's philanthropic community as "not showy, not braggadocious — they're very visionary. We still believe in education in this community in a very significant way."

The private-donation numbers reported this past week from the Council for Aid to Education show contributions for the 2010-11 fiscal year, which ended June 30. Some of the gifts that pushed the UW's numbers higher included an anonymous $17.5 million donation to help pay for scholarships for low-income students, and the Husky Stadium campaign.

Because one large donation in a year can skew the numbers, Kravas said the UW pays more attention to its five-year average of contributions. The five-year measure also puts the UW in the top tier: It's 15th in the nation for contributions, and fourth among public schools.

Among public schools, the University of California, Los Angeles is at the top, having raised $415 million in 2010-11.

Among other schools in Washington that raised significant amounts of money in 2010-11, Washington State University had the second-largest total, with $149 million. Others are Pacific Lutheran University, $28 million; Seattle University, $19 million; Gonzaga University, $14 million; Whitman College, $15 million; University of Puget Sound, $12 million; Walla Walla University, $7 million; Western Washington University, $4 million; Seattle Pacific University, $4 million; and Eastern Washington University, $2 million.

Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or klong@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @katherinelong.

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