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ROI In higher ed, both sides benefit from corporate giving

Higher education systems everywhere are experiencing some of the worst years in recent memory for public support.

But, at the same time, Glassboro-based Rowan University is having some of the best years in the university’s history for an alternative revenue source: donations from businesses.

“We’ve got a good amount of corporate support for the past five years, much more than in prior years,” said R.J. Tallarida Jr., executive director of the nonprofit foundation wing of Rowan University.

New Jersey’s higher education funding fell from its peak of $2.33 billion in 2006 to $1.93 billion in 2013, a 17 percent decrease.

While it pales in comparison to the public support lost over the years, Rowan brought in $10 million in new gifts and pledges in fiscal year 2014.

Tallarida also admits that doesn’t make up the bulk of the operating budget, but the philanthropic success the college is seeing does ease the pain.

As for whether it’s the tax benefits that have driven that philanthropy, Tallarida has his doubts.

Tax benefits haven’t been altered much, yet the way these donations have to be solicited has changed drastically.

“We’ve noticed a trend: Corporations are no longer just giving away money as loose as they used to,” Tallarida said. “They’re looking for more holistic relationships and partnerships with universities.”

Now, when a business consents to some monetary assistance, it expects that the university will offer access to programs, research, facilities, top students for internships or any combination of that in return.

“We might have a small business come to us that does work in the asphalt market,” he said. “At our engineering school, we have an asphalt lab. So the corporation may want to financially support the work in that lab; essentially, they’re creating a potential pipeline of future employees.”

Brett Johnson

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