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Editorial: UB's fundraising effort is a recognition of what it will take to stay competitive

If the University at Buffalo is to remain competitive, it must increase its endowment through fundraising, appealing to the institution’s alumni and stakeholders in the community.

So it is appropriate that, after many years, the university will embark upon a fundraising campaign in the spring to raise hundreds of millions of dollars from private donors. More than appropriate, it is necessary. Influential universities need big endowments.

In his State of the University address, UB President Satish K. Tripathi talked about the university’s self-mandate to draw more private philanthropy. The world of higher education has become more competitive than ever. A number of forces influence decision-making by both students and faculty.

For students, cost tends to be among the top considerations, and although the governor’s Excelsior Scholarship program essentially eliminates financial pain, it is not guaranteed. And then, of course, quality is essential to recruiting top students and staff. The latter is impossible without resources.

State support, apart from the aforementioned scholarship program, has been on the decline. Tripathi recently described such philanthropy as essential, becoming “the great differentiator.” That is, as he explained, “… the difference between being very good and being in the highest tier of research universities.”

Indeed, it will require reaching every corner of the community, and sending a clear message about the goal and how the university intends to achieve it.

He’s talking about people like Stephen Still of Reston, Va., who studied civil engineering and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1976. Still became an engineer, heading two successful aviation companies. Out of gratitude for the education that put him on his life path, he recently gave the university $4 million. Tripathi and his staff hope to influence more Stills.

The UB president did not set a dollar amount on this comprehensive campaign – the last one, in the early 2000s, brought in $291 million, notably more than the drive’s goal of $250 million. The new campaign will “support endowments for professors, increasing student scholarships and improving facilities.”

Tripathi is aware of the image challenges UB faces so shortly after the recent prosecutions of former administrators on charges of stealing university funds. And then there is also the push by UB graduate students for a stipend increase.

UB is not unlike other institutions of higher education these days responding to changing dynamics while working to attract top talent. A successful fundraising campaign is important in reaching new heights.

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