Everything you need to know about UH’s $1B campaign
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article implied that President Khator made a false claim about students not being able to direct what priorities their donations go to. This was a misunderstanding of the question, and this article has been updated to reflect this.
Last week, the University of Houston launched its “Here, We Go” fundraising campaign, which aims to raise $1 billion by 2020. Headed by the Division of University Advancement, development officers will approach alumni, current students and prominent community figures for donations ranging from $15 to greater than $20 million.
The University began the quiet phase of the campaign in 2012, raising $684 million, more than half of the campaign target, prior to the public launch. In a Q&A with The Cougar, Vice President for the Division of University Advancement Eloise Dunn Brice said that universities usually hold off on announcing campaigns until they’ve raised a substantial portion of the goal.
Highlighting the Wednesday night debut of the campaign was a $20 million donation from the John P. McGovern Foundation. This will provide financial support to art students, faculty and members of the community, and the College of the Arts will be renamed the Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts.
“As one of only three Tier One public universities in the state of Texas, and the only one in Houston, the University has a special and important responsibility to the region,” Dunn Brice said.
According to an article from the Houston Chronicle, other donations have funded engineering and research building renovations, engineering scholarships and UH Downtown programs. In July, UH System Board of Regents Chairman Tillman Fertitta donated $20 million to redevelop athletics facilities.
UH Chancellor and President Renu Khator said that to date, 130,000 people have donated to the campaign. Of that number, more than 94,000 are first-time donors to the University.
UH’s campaign is similar to those frequently held by other large universities, such as Rice University’s 2008 campaign to raise $1 billion and Texas A&M’s ongoing campaign to raise $4 billion by 2020. During the Q&A, Dunn Brice said campaigns are instrumental to raising the level of giving for the University. With each subsequent campaign, the amount of regular donations increases.
This is the University’s first major campaign in nearly 25 years.
In order to determine how funds will be spent, the University has set designated priorities. When donors are approached for donations, Dunn Brice said they are asked to direct their donations to those priorities. However, donors have the final say in how their money is spent, and they and the University must agree on the terms of the donation before it can be finalized.
“The University spends the money that has come in for the campaign the way the donors direct it, and the donors direct it in the ways that we ask for it,” Dunn Brice said.
University priorities fall under six campaign initiatives, including boosting student success through scholarships, attracting and retaining top faculty, enhancing facilities, building a healthier Houston economy and powering a national athletics program. Under these priorities, donors have the option to designate their funds to more than 40 areas within the University.
Available designations include the colleges, student affairs, the library and athletics. The $140 million campaign goal set for athletics has already been surpassed, Dunn Brice said.
“The priorities for Athletics projects in particular were ones that resonated with alumni and friends, and were among the first to be rolled out during the quiet phase of the campaign,” Dunn Brice said.
Current students will not vote on how the $1 billion will be spent, though both Dunn Brice and Khator said there is an expectation for them to donate to the campaign. However, students donating to the campaign will have the option to designate which area of the University they would like their funds directed to.
“Student donors, just like alumni and other donors who have generously given to the University, can direct their gifts,” Dunn Brice said. “We let each donor choose, rather than letting the student body vote as a whole.”
One example of an opportunity for student donations, Dunn Brice said, was when graduating seniors in the fall had the opportunity to make a $15 donation to the campaign in exchange for a spirit cord to wear during commencement.
“We always deal with this notion that the campaign is just for rich people, and it’s not. The campaign is for everybody,” Dunn Brice said. “We know students don’t have, for the most part, huge bucks to give here, but we want them to participate.”
Students can direct their donations on the giving website, but the student body will not vote on how any donations will be spent.
“Students have a powerful and important voice,” Dunn Brice said. “That’s why students who donate to the spirit cord program or other programs can use their voices by designating their contribution to a specific college, unit or special area.”
Dunn Brice said the Division of University Advancement will be ramping up in the spring and offering more opportunities for student participation.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Khator’s goal is to gain a spot among the nation’s top research institutions in the Association of American Universities. If admitted, UH would be one step closer to rivaling the academic prestige of other top Texas universities such as the University of Texas at Austin, a frequent competitor for the University.
“The purpose of the campaign is to move the University of Houston forward as a leading nationally relevant educational institution,” Dunn Brice said.