The Campaign for USC will reach its $6 billion goal nearly 18 months before anticipated, securing its place among the most successful campaigns in higher education. Building on this momentum, President C. L. Max Nikias announced Feb. 15 that USC will extend its campaign for five more years, through Dec. 31, 2021.
“The ascent of our institution has no doubt been accelerated by the momentum generated through the Campaign for USC,” Nikias said. “But we are not resting on our laurels and, indeed, the university continues to set new ambitions in the sciences, engineering and medicine, as well as the arts and humanities, while working to expand access for lower and middle income students.
He continued, “To ensure we can achieve these important objectives, we have decided to extend the Campaign for USC for another five calendar years, through the end of 2021.”
When first announced in 2011, the $6 billion fundraising campaign was unprecedented in its boldness. Some outside the university saw the goal as unattainable. The national and global economies’ weak recovery following the Great Recession had already delayed or derailed other universities’ planned campaigns.
The $6 billion goal made the Campaign for USC — also called Fas Regna Trojae (“the Destined Reign of Troy” in Latin) — the largest fundraising campaign in the history of higher education at the time it was announced. It marked the third time that USC had established a record-setting campaign goal.
Asked why he would aim so high, Nikias had a simple answer: “Our ambitious vision for USC’s academic future far exceeded our ability to pay for it.” His aim — one shared by the Trojan Family — was to usher the university into the pantheon of academia’s most elite and most influential institutions.
Fast forward to today, and the university has raised as much through the Campaign for USC in six and a half years as it had during the prior six and a half decades combined. Only four other universities — all elite research institutions — have ever raised more than $5 billion to support academic and research priorities through campaigns of varying duration. And in 2013, USC first vaulted into a spot with Harvard and Stanford among the nation’s top three universities for annual fundraising — a position it has held ever since.
USC’s annual fundraising has grown more than three-fold since the campaign began, averaging $908 million in gifts and pledges, as compared to a pre-campaign average of $284 million.
Campaign funds have helped USC make, in Nikias’ words, “a decade’s worth of academic progress in just a few years.” The support has been critical to USC’s leadership in education, research, patient care, the arts and community outreach, and it has already helped the institution compete with the best of the global academic community for faculty, students and research projects. Extending the campaign will accelerate this dramatic progress, he said.
Already, donors have contributed more than $1.85 billion toward the university’s endowment. The university uses investment returns from these funds to attract and retain top faculty, drive research and provide student scholarships, among other priorities.
Since the start of the Campaign for USC, four of the university’s schools have received endowed naming gifts:
- USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
- USC Sol Price School of Public Policy
- USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance (USC’s first new school since 1975)
- USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work
USC also received the single largest gift in its history for undergraduate scholarships, $110 million to establish and endow the USC Mork Family Scholars Program, from USC Trustee John Mork and his wife, Julie.
Other major endowment gifts supporting centers, institutes and programs included the W.M. Keck Foundation’s naming of Keck Medicine of USC and Keck Medical Center of USC and the creation of the Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation.
With campaign gifts, USC donors have endowed 19 new research centers and institutes spanning the arts and humanities, social and natural sciences, and engineering and technology.
By creating 100 new faculty positions since the campaign began, donors have also enabled USC to recruit and retain faculty members who are transforming their disciplines — including stem cell scientist Andrew McMahon, brain researchers Arthur Toga and Paul Thompson, and diversity and equity expert Shaun Harper, just to name a few.
More than 10,500 donors have supported endowed scholarships, underpinning the university’s commitment to attract top students and to meet the financial needs of undergraduates through scholarships and other types of financial aid. Since the start of the campaign, USC has more than doubled its annual financial aid pool to $330 million annually.
Continuing fundraising efforts will focus on medical research, the arts and increasing the university’s endowment for scholarships.
Infrastructure and capital projects
Of the nearly $6 billion raised, just over $1 billion has been designated for capital projects. These are probably the most visible results of the campaign — the buildings that rise across the university’s campuses. Since 2010, the university has added 4.7 million square feet of new space, which represents more than 30 percent growth across its two campuses. In all, more than 7.4 million square feet of building space has been erected or renovated: space for living, learning, performing experiments and creating art.
Among those nearing completion is the USC Village, a 15-acre residential and retail development that includes eight new residential colleges. The university is also set to begin a $270 million renovation of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, to restore its place as one of the world’s great venues.
More than $3 billion has been raised so far for initiatives such as the USC student experience and research and facilities to advance human health. These gifts fund new and ongoing academic programs and research that address society’s most urgent challenges, crossing disciplines to bring the best collaborative and innovative thinking to the forefront.
Donors have supported programs that reflect their own passions while they build on the university’s strengths in such areas as medical research, the arts and social issues.
The campaign’s supporters
Donors to USC’s far-reaching mission have come from a broad spectrum of backgrounds, and they have given consistently across all levels.
“Although USC’s larger gifts tend to make the news, it’s the outpouring of support from alumni, parents, grateful patients and friends from all across the nation and world that is most inspiring,” said Albert R. Checcio, senior vice president for university advancement.
Transformational and leadership gifts are part of the campaign’s success, and USC has been unique in drawing these not just at the beginning of its campaign, but throughout it. Five donors have given more than $100 million each.
“Our trustees have led the way with their generosity and belief in what USC contributes to our community and our world,” Nikias said, noting that collectively members of the USC Board of Trustees have so far donated an unprecedented $1.6 billion to support campaign priorities. “They lead by example, and through their knowledge of and enthusiasm for what their dollars enable through USC’s life-changing mission.”
In all, more than 322,000 donors have given to the campaign. “An impressive 64 percent of our total has come from non-alumni,” Checcio noted, underscoring that donors believe in the direction, achievements and ambition of the university. Alumni giving totaled $2.2 billion, and giving by parents followed closely at $1.9 billion.
In another milestone for the campaign, USC’s undergraduate alumni set a new record for giving in 2016. Their giving rate soared to 42 percent last year, placing USC ahead of most research universities for undergraduate alumni participation and slotting it in first place among all Pac-12 universities, according to the Council for Aid to Education.
Critical to the campaign are the initiatives of USC’s schools and units, which include endowments for scholarships, fellowships, research funding and capital projects. The campaign has also been able to support new projects that were unanticipated when fundraising efforts began — whether generated by newly recruited faculty members, unexpected opportunities or urgent need.
USC is proud of its efficiency in its fundraising. The latest figures show USC’s cost to fundraise at about 9 cents for every dollar raised, which is more than 20 percent lower than a comparison peer average.
“This campaign and its continuation is about what we can do — how we can transform the world — with those funds. The Trojan Family has shown us time and again how much it believes in USC and its potential to better lives,” Checcio said.
Extending the campaign is a bold move, but Nikias and Checcio are confident that university supporters will redouble their efforts.
“While we have an ambitious vision for USC’s future, let’s remember that our dreams have a deadline,” Nikias said. “Let us continue gathering the resources to make them a reality.”
— Lynn Lipinski