Staff Editorial: Go for $1 billion

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September 12, 2008

1:17 PM

It’s no secret that the College is hurting for money. Every year, a dismal financial resources score darkens its otherwise top-notch figures in the US News & World Report rankings. The current economic downturn, moreover, could prompt even deeper state budget cuts. That means the College will need to turn its fiscal focus elsewhere if it is to maintain — let alone improve — its status as one of the nation’s premier universities. President Taylor Reveley can and should help it do just that. It’s time for him to take charge of a new fundraising campaign — one to raise $1 billion.

Surprisingly little public money flows into this public institution. Virginia funds only about 20 percent of the the College’s budget, and even that small portion is subject to the economic winds driving the state’s revenue. This year isn’t likely to prove a bumper year, either. Reliable private funding and prudent money management together offer the sole path to financial stability. Ultimately, growing the alumni giving-base will reap some of the largest returns, but a $1 billion infusion of private funds is the right place to start.

Now could not be a better time to begin. As our peer institutions pour endowment money into financial aid packages, our “bargain” status diminishes. Even in-state tuition looks bad when the competition is free, or nearly so. In Reveley, we see an opportunity for a renewed effort. We appreciate his stance that only private dollars can keep us in the race. That gives him all the more reason to capitalize on the recent and successful campaign to raise $500 million. Far from an end in itself, success there proved the College can reach $1 billion. And when it comes to fiscal opportunities, what the College can accomplish, it should accomplish.

That’s common sense. It’s good to see similar sentiments all around. Reveley and the Board of Visitors already understand that our financial relationship with Virginia will remain tenuous at best.

“The era of being state-supported and privately assisted is over, is dead as a doornail, is never coming back,” Reveley said in an August interview. We could not agree more with his proposal to reverse those roles. A new campaign would convert those plans into much-needed action.

But maybe this seems a stretch. Maybe $1 billion looks beyond our reach. Faced with equal state pressures, the University of Virginia believes otherwise. It plans to raise $1 million a day, every day, until it raises more than $3 billion. Our school may be small, but it is capable. And in the end, that is all we require.

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