The University of Oklahoma's ability to raise private dollars for worthwhile projects is the envy of many of the nation's most prestigious institutions.

In the first eleven months of this fiscal year, the university has received gifts and pledges of more than $103 million. Donors have pledged or given about $1.1 billion to OU since David Boren became president in 1994. The university's total endowment is nearing $700 million.

But even more interesting to us is the increase in the university's donor base. In 1995, OU counted on about 25,000 contributors. In 2005, more than 103,000 donors were listed. Sure, there have been large multi-million dollar gifts for which stadiums and buildings are named but there are thousands of smaller donors who do what they can for the good of the university.

Those dollars may be more important than ever. The university's operating budget has increased exponentially in the last 20 years. In fiscal year 1985, the university's Norman campus spent $164.6 million. For fiscal 2005, the total was more than $570 million.

State appropriations in 1985 made up a little over 38 percent of the Norman campus' operating budget. By 2005, that percentage had shrunk to 20 percent. The percentage paid through tuition and fees has more than doubled in those 20 years.

So universities must continually reach out to their alumni and friends for support. OU realized that years ago and is way ahead of the curve here.

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