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Public colleges find new zeal in fund raising Universities compete for private money


Maryland's public universities are searching for private contributions with new zeal.

After years of often lackadaisical fund raising, Maryland's colleges are trying to compete with private schools for donations, in part because taxpayer support has suffered along with the rest of the state budget.

"There's a growing understanding that the state cannot afford to do it all," said John K. Martin, chief fund-raiser for the University of Maryland's 11-campus system.

Claiming success, the University of Maryland recently lifted the goal of its five-year campaign from $200 million to $236 million.

Towson State University is planning its first major campaign, with a goal of as much as $10 million.

And Morgan State University, which is not part of the UM System, is poised to launch a $15 million fund-raising campaign, the first in the school's 125-year history.

As the economy soured in recent years, state support of public universities slipped.

State funding dropped 2.5 percent, from $823 million in the fiscal year ending June 1990 to $803 million in the fiscal year ending June 1993.

Some state colleges have successfully made up some of the difference.

The University of Maryland System saw its annual gifts -- the backbone of its fund raising -- increase from $16 million in 1986 to $42.3 million in 1990. But that figure slipped to $36 million last year.

Some potential donors think their gifts should be unnecessary at a publicly supported school.

"When people think of public institutions, they think they are totally supported by public money, when in fact it's less than 50 percent," said Dan McCarthy, a Towson State vice president.

"We have to educate people that we have the need," he said.

The University of Maryland System's campaign has attracted 40 gifts of more than $1 million since it began in 1988. Donors pledged the gifts to specific projects at various campuses across the state.

For example, one contribution of $1 million from the Parke-Davis pharmaceutical company endowed what was billed as the world's first professorship in geriatric pharmacy, now filled by Peter P. Lamy.

Fund-raising efforts were recently centralized and revitalized at College Park, the state's flagship campus. More than 15 professionals who had done part-time fund raising from scattered offices have been brought into the central development office, joining the handful who were there, said Tom Franklin, acting assistant vice president for institutional advancement.

Maryland's public universities, despite their new aggressiveness, have a long way to go to catch elite private schools.

The Johns Hopkins University, with its cadre of some 60 professional fund-raisers, took in $644 million in a five-year campaign that ended two years ago.

Yale University recently announced a $1.5 billion drive, but only after making sure it had one-third of that amount already committed.

Likewise, Maryland's public universities trail behind their counterparts in other states.

For example, the University of Wisconsin at Madison took in more than $128 million in 1991, dwarfing the $19 million collected by the University of Maryland College Park.

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