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A record $40.1 million in donations and pledges to Arkansas State University during the past fiscal year helped the Jonesboro campus avoid a tuition increase this fall despite relatively stable state funding, Chancellor Kelly Damphousse said Thursday.

That sum surpassed the university's previous record of $18.4 million raised in 2014-15.

Four major gifts, including a $10 million donation from Texas businessman and ASU alumnus Neil Griffin, boosted ASU's fundraising in fiscal 2018. Other major gifts included just over $5 million from Arkansas banker Johnny Allison, $5 million from Centennial Bank and $5 million from First National Bank.

"There is a growing number of people who understand how they can help us by sharing their treasure with us," Damphousse said in an interview. "They understand that the university is doing important work [with] the young people of Arkansas and that their gift can help change lives for students."

Damphousse also praised the university's "incredible staff" for fundraising efforts. He singled out Jason Penry, vice chancellor for university advancement, and Athletic Director Terry Mohajir.

"Both of them have a real passion for the university and have done a great job of relaying the message," the chancellor said.

In an earlier news release, ASU said "the record-breaking year of philanthropy" was also thanks to donors "across the board as the giving rate of all A-State alumni rose to 9.2 percent."

"We stand here today able to assist more students with scholarships thanks to the growing generosity of our community and our alumni," Damphousse said in the news release. "We have more named professorships to provide assistance to research and scholarly work by our faculty. And we broke new ground with our first named college this spring."

Penry said $13.4 million of the $40.1 million was already in hand with the remainder pledged. Some of the pledged money includes planned gifts as part of estate planning, he said.

Penry said most of the donations are earmarked.

"The national average [for earmarking such gifts] is around 90 percent," he said. "We're in line with national standards."

Money specified for facility improvements ranks at the top with scholarships and faculty support likely sharing second place, he said.

ASU's state funding "has been relatively stable over the past two years," though expenses have risen, Damphousse said in the interview.

"To meet the demands of expenses, what often happens is [that] universities will increase tuition," he said. "Those private gifts help buffer our need to raise tuition. We held tuition flat this year because we have such great support from the private sector."

Damphousse said universities "have become more involved in fundraising across the country because ... there has been a flattening of state support."

Record or near-record giving has become common in the past five years at ASU, the news release said.

As a result, the university said, the number of endowed scholarships has risen more than 40 percent and the university "has 10 new endowed faculty positions, more than doubling the total to 16 campus-wide."

Further, the number of privately funded scholarships has risen from 251 to 361 since July 1, 2012.

Damphousse said the university wasn't raising "the kind of money we are now" until Penry moved into his current position five years ago.

"It takes leadership at his level, it takes building relationships with people, and it takes a lot of work. ... He's leading a great team of people," the chancellor added.

State Desk on 08/17/2018

Print Headline: ASU donations hold tuition line; Gifts, pledges of $40.1M is record

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