It was a $6 million day for the University of Maryland University College. (Yes, it's different than the University of Maryland at College Park and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County).
UMUC was one of nine schools that have received a total of $45 million from an anonymous donor. University endowments, the investment funds that most universities use to help fund student financial aid and subsidize school operations, have been hard hit by the stock market down turn. So this donation gives new meaning to the phrase “just in time” for some lucky universities and students.
1 million allotted to unrestricted funds and $5 million earmarked for scholarships. Half of the scholarship monies will be invested in an endowed fund, with the income funding a variety of annual scholarships. The remaining $2.5 million will be disbursed immediately and in the coming academic year, funding approximately 400 partial and full scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $20,000. The university has already begun identifying scholarship recipients using need- and merit-based criteria, with the majority of funds going to graduates of Maryland community colleges, the spouses of active-duty or retired military service members, and applicants to UMUC’s new Master of Arts in Teaching program.
UMUC President Susan C. Aldridge. “We can only hope that this donor—whom we do not know and cannot thank in person—will hear our heartfelt thanks amplified a thousandfold in the gratitude of the students whose lives he or she has touched and whose futures have been made brighter by the promise of higher education.”
The gifts ranged from $8 million at Purdue to $1.5 million to the University of North Carolina at Asheville. The University of Iowa received $7 million; the University of Southern Mississippi, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the University of Maryland University College got $6 million each; the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs was given $5.5 million; and Penn State-Harrisburg received $3 million.
It's not clear whether the gifts came from an individual, an organization or a group of people with similar interests. In every case, the donor or donors dealt with the universities through lawyers or other middlemen. Some of the money came in cashier's checks, while other schools received checks from a law firm or another representative.
All the schools had to agree not to investigate the identity of the giver. Some were required to make such a promise in writing.
Each was delivered since March 1 and came with the same stipulation: Most of the money must be used for student scholarships, and the remainder can be spent on various costs such as research, equipment, strategic goals and operating support.
Usually when schools receive anonymous donations, the school knows the identity of the benefactor but agrees to keep it secret. Not knowing who is giving the money can raise thorny problems.
William Massey, vice chancellor for alumni and development at UNC-Asheville, said the school contacted the Department of Homeland Security and the IRS to make sure the money was legal before accepting it.
"There may be an ethical problem if you knowingly accept funds from ill-gotten gains," said Colorado Springs' Hutton. University officials "do due diligence and ask the appropriate questions and receive satisfactory answers."
The $6 million donated to the University of Southern Mississippi was the largest single gift ever bestowed to the school.