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College is a launching pad for countless students, helping them acquire the skills needed for a successful career after graduation. Some graduates show their gratitude by giving back and donating to various causes at their alma mater.
Colleges see alumni donations as essential to supporting their educational mission. Such contributions also signal satisfaction; successful grads are likely to give back to their school, which is why the alumni giving rate average factors into the U.S. News Best Colleges rankings.
Alumni donations can equal major sources of revenue for colleges. In 2018, Michael Bloomberg, a businessman and former mayor of New York City, donated an eye-popping $1.8 billion to his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. Similarly, Nike co-founder Phil Knight, a University of Oregon graduate, has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the college over the years.
It isn’t just wealthy alumni making contributions. Alumni giving at U.S. colleges totaled more than $11 billion in 2019, according to research from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education published in 2020.
The average alumni giving rate during the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 academic years was 8%, according to data that 1,451 ranked colleges reported to U.S. News in an annual survey. But some schools reported much higher numbers, with the 10 colleges at the top seeing two-year average alumni giving rates of 44% and higher.
At the top of this list is Princeton University in New Jersey, which reported a two-year average alumni giving rate of 55%.
Seven of the 10 colleges with the highest alumni giving rates are National Liberal Arts Colleges, which emphasize undergraduate education and award half or more of their degrees in liberal arts fields. Two of the remaining three are National Universities — institutions that are often research-oriented and offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees — and one is a Regional College. Regional Colleges focus on undergraduate education but grant fewer than half their degrees in the liberal arts.
Below is a list of the 10 schools with the highest two-year average percentage of alumni donors in 2017-2018 and 2018-2019. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, were not considered for this report.
|School (state)||Two-year average percentage of alumni who donated||U.S. News rank and category|
|Princeton University (NJ)||55%||1, National Universities|
|Williams College (MA)||50%||1, National Liberal Arts Colleges|
|Bowdoin College (ME)||47%||6 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges|
|Alice Lloyd College (KY)||46%||26 (tie), Regional Colleges (South)|
|Amherst College (MA)||45%||2, National Liberal Arts Colleges|
|Carleton College (MN)||45%||9 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges|
|Thomas Aquinas College (CA)||45%||40 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges|
|College of the Holy Cross (MA)||44%||36 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges|
|Dartmouth College (NH)||44%||13, National Universities|
|Wellesley College (MA)||44%||4 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges|
Don’t see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find alumni giving rates, complete rankings and much more. Sign up for the U.S. News Extra Help: College Admissions free email newsletter to receive expert advice twice a month.
U.S. News surveyed more than 1,800 colleges and universities for our 2020 survey of undergraduate programs. Schools self-reported myriad data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News’ data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Colleges rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data comes from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News’ rankings of Best Colleges, Best Graduate Schools or Best Online Programs. The alumni giving rate data above is correct as of Dec. 8, 2020.
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