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College Fundraising Update

You may wonder why the College is continuing its fundraising efforts. The below FAQ addresses common questions about Columbia's endowment and why the College Fund is essential to the College's successful operations. Please contact ccfund@columbia.edu if you have any additional questions.

To help students during this time, please consider making a gift to the College Fund, which is essential to the College’s commitment to need-blind admissions and full-need financial aid and is continuing to help students virtually through programs such as academic advising, student life programming and career counseling.

How is the Coronavirus pandemic impacting College finances?

  • As are so many institutions, the College is experiencing sudden and negative financial impacts from the Coronavirus pandemic. We see an increased need from students in financial aid and emergency support, certain revenue streams such as room and board have disappeared and the institutional value of the University endowment is decreasing. We recognize that financial needs are emerging everywhere at this time, but the College is committed to continuing our support for students and their education. As the endowment's value declines and we predict increased student needs over the next few years, the support of donors who believe in education is more pressing than ever before.

Why is the College fundraising right now - can’t it wait until the Coronavirus pandemic is over?

  • The College must raise more than $20 million every year through the Columbia College Fund, which is flexible, current-use cash. These funds have already been allocated in the College’s operating budget, into core needs like financial aid and student-facing programming. The money we raise today not only supports these ongoing needs but also positions the College to withstand the financial challenges associated with COVID-19 in the months ahead.

Why does Columbia need my support - doesn’t it have a $10 billion endowment?

  • The University endowment is significant, although the College receives an allocation of less than 10% of the value (as the University has 16 schools and other institutes). The College receives a distribution of 5% interest per year from its portion of the endowment, which is not enough to cover all operating costs and our commitment to financial aid, due in part because tuition income is also used in other areas. As a result, the College Fund provides the funding necessary to cover the remaining expenses needed to support our students and their needs.

Why can’t the College use its portion of the endowment to cover a budget shortfall?

  • The majority of endowed funds are restricted and must be spent in accordance with a donor’s intentions. For example, if a donor makes an endowed gift to support a faculty position, the College must uphold donor intent and may not use this gift to cover expenses unrelated to the original intent of the gift. Alternatively, unrestricted gifts to the College Fund allow the College to quickly and flexibly address unexpected costs and this support is needed now more than ever.

Why can’t the principal of the endowment be spent, instead of just the interest?

  • The purpose of the endowment is the same as any invested fund: to provide sustainable support over the long-term, and in many cases, for specific initiatives or programs. It is not a general reserve or “slush fund”, rather, it ensures the long-term health and security of the University. While the Trustees have the power to choose to draw additional funds from the endowment to address extraordinary challenges, subject to donor consent, funds cannot be taken without limitation. To do so would sacrifice the institution’s future security.

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Columbia College Fund

The Columbia College Fund provides essential resources for financial aid, student services and the Core Curriculum - all fundamental aspects of the first-rate undergraduate experience that defines Columbia College. Each dollar given to the College Fund translates into immediate support for the College's most pressing areas of need.

Core to Commencement
Core to Commencement Campaign

Nearly 100 years ago, Columbia College altered the landscape of American higher education with a pioneering experiment now known as the Core Curriculum. We are drawing up a blueprint for the future that reinforces our foundations and raises our sights even higher. Emboldened by great books, inspired by culture, united by diversity and stirred by big ideas, we are posted to build a better Columbia and with it, a better world.