Loring Ross believes in giving back and, like many Coastal Carolina University alumni, is contributing to the success of the area’s only four-year institution, even though he is not a CCU graduate.
“I’ve lived here for 30 years, I’ve become a part of this community more than anywhere else, and I felt I should get more involved with education locally in this area, because this is my home,” said Ross, an area orthodontist and West Virginia University graduate. “I’m small potatoes - there are people doing a lot more – but I think everybody has an obligation to give back, and I think education is the place to do it.”
Ross started with $30,000 to endow a CCU scholarship, which will grow as he continues to work and contribute. The scholarship will go to a student who majors in biology, as Ross did, and maintains a 3.4 grade point average.
Colleges and universities depend on people such as Ross who donate money because they see the value of higher education and want to encourage success at either their alma mater or in the place they call home. Gifts can be made in several forms, such as cash and property, and have become increasingly crucial for public institutions that need to provide student scholarships and finance multiple goals.
CCU receives only 4.8 percent of its budget from the state and depends on fundraising for things such as scholarships, endowed faculty chairs and athletic facilities. The university has an Office of Philanthropy that works with its investment arm, the Coastal Educational Foundation (CEF), which supports academics, and the Chanticleer Athletic Foundation (CAF), which supports the goals of the athletic department.
“When people think of a public institution, there is a mindset that the state pays for everything,” said CCU President David DeCenzo. “Maybe 30 or 40 years ago that was true, but with federal mandates and so many demands for state funds, they can’t do it.”
Ross said the idea of giving back was instilled in him early by his father, who was an instructor and dean at WVU-Parkersburg where he had a scholarship in his name at the school. He also has been in charge of the Chicora Rotary Club’s scholarship committee and was inspired when one of the club’s gifts went to one of his patients.
“It was so cool to see this little girl grow up, how deserving she was, and I thought, ‘Enough of this – it’s time to set up my own [scholarship],’ ” Ross said.
Every public university has to have a 501(c)(3), and the CEF was created before CCU was established in 1954, said Stovall Witte, chief executive officer of the CEF. The CEF seeks financial support through annual gifts, capital campaigns, planned giving and other ongoing fundraising programs. It invests the endowment money, which will continue to grow, and also handles the accounting for the CAF.
The university has received about $12.3 million in cash over the last three years, with that figure increasing each year, from about $3.2 million in 2011 and $3.6 million in 2012 to about $5.6 million last year, according to the CEF. Fundraising for that period, which also includes property and pledges, totaled about $23.4 million, with about $9.6 million raised last year, up from about $7.6 million in 2011 and $6.2 million in 2012.
Total assets for the CEF and the CAF were about $40.2 million on June 30 of last year, up from a little more than $38 million on June 30, 2012. About $4.3 million was given to CCU each of those years.
CEF’s investment pool was at almost $25.4 million out of about $33.2 million in total assets at the end of the 2013 fiscal year on June 30. Those figures have been climbing since 2002 – when the endowment value was at $10 million, and total assets were about $15 million – despite a few bad years, including 2012, “but we made up for it,” Witte said.
Endowments benefit significantly from what donors bequeath in their wills, something that occurs more often at older institutions that have a few generations of alums who have made their mark in society. CCU was established as part of the University of South Carolina system in 1960 and didn’t become an independent, state-supported university until 1993. Some older alums had more of a connection with USC, Witte said, but that outlook is changing.
“The problem a place like Coastal has is it’s not very old, and it didn’t have the identity it has now,” Witte said. “It’s difficult for younger schools, but we have our alumni, and we do have a lot of local support. [CCU] is a big economic generator, and they see what’s happening here – it’s an exciting, dynamic place.”
Endowments are still a significant source of support for higher education, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Association of College and University Business Officers. The report of 835 U.S. colleges and universities said their endowments returned an average of 11.7 percent for the 2013 fiscal year ended June 30 and showed a strong recovery from the -0.3 percent seen by report participants in fiscal year 2012.
CEF’s investment performance was at 17.34 percent for fiscal year 2013, and over the past 10 years, its investments have grown an average of 6.58 percent per year, according to CEF. The average total return in that same period for institutions with assets between $25 million and $50 million was 11.4 percent and 11.7 percent for those with assets under $25 million, according to the NACUBO report.
Universities with smaller endowments, about $25 million or less, in general, have done reasonably well because the stock markets have done better, and they have definitely started to grow, said Kenneth Redd, director of research and policy analysis for the NACUBO.
He said one problem facing these institutions, especially the smaller ones, is the struggle with declining enrollments as the number of students level out, with many young people being more cautious of going to college and paying the prices.
“Trying to grow and build their resources, those are challenges we’re going to see for several years going forward,” Redd said.
CCU has an enrollment of almost 9,500 students and adjusted its master plan about two years ago to redesign the university and to accommodate its growth. The university is aiming for its student body to eventually reach 12,500.
Funding for programs
CCU has benefited from some large endowments, with the top three given for the Spadoni College of Education at almost $1.2 million, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at just over $1 million and the Nancy and Cathcart Smith Scholarship at almost $1 million. The university has 137 endowed programs and 66 annual scholarships, according to the CEF.
OLLI moved into a new space in the Litchfield area about two weeks ago, and money from the endowment will be used later this year to make purchases for the new Litchfield Education Center, as well as for the program’s space at the Coastal Science Center in Conway, said Linda Ketron, OLLI director. OLLI has been a longstanding program supported by CCU and a popular destination for the area’s many retirees, Ketron said, and it is mutually beneficial because many of its seniors share their talents not just with other seniors but also on the CCU campus. Ketron said OLLI received three $100,000 grants from the Bernard Osher Foundation of San Francisco, the first in 2007, before it was given the endowment in the summer of 2012.
The program had a home on Willbrook Boulevard in the Litchfield area until the end of 2012 and had been moving around until the new spot was recently ready. The new location is in Litchfield Landing, two miles south of Brookgreen Gardens, and classes also are taught at a third site, the Myrtle Beach Higher Education Center in Myrtle Beach.
“We’ve camped out for a full year, perched in temporary quarters without computers and telephones and trying to continue the program, but we’ve done a wonderful job,” said Ketron, who said the center has new technology that will enhance many of the classes. “We’re so pleased with the way the construction turned out and think it will be an incredible resource for this community.”
As state funding continues to drop, the university has to depend on its donors and fundraising efforts for it to continue its pursuit of excellence, said Mark Roach, who was recently named CCU’s vice president for philanthropy after serving as executive director of the CAF. He said he hopes that the bar has been set by gifts such as the $5 million given by TD Bank, which was put toward the university’s athletic complex.
Roach oversees all of CCU’s fundraising activities, including that of the CAF, which was a structural shift in the organization, made by DeCenzo. The change isn’t unusual among universities and wasn’t made because there were any problems, DeCenzo said, but it made sense to streamline the coordination of fundraising under the Office of Philanthropy as CCU moves forward with plans for the university’s future.
DeCenzo said he is proud of how well the university has done, but now that it has reached its 21st year, it needs to provide significantly more scholarship dollars, programs and support for faculty research. He said area residents have been good to CCU through the penny sales tax, but there are limitations on how that money can be used, and the endowment piece makes more money available for more students, who in turn are part of the bigger process of entering the workforce and strengthening the area’s economy. The penny sales tax was approved in 2008 and will be collected for 15 years to benefit CCU, Horry County Schools and Horry-Georgetown Technical College.
“My goal, when I look at an institution of our size, is to have an endowment closer to $100 million, and it’s not unrealistic to shoot for that goal,” DeCenzo said. “We are an economic engine – our economic impact for the state is about $500 million, of which $400 million annually is in Horry County – and when you consider the impact, you can build a very strong case for why we need the philanthropic aspect.
“Education is the equalizer in society, and we need to make sure we keep it affordable and accessible to all,” he said, “and in order to do that, we need help in building scholarship funds and endowments. We really are asking people to pay it forward.”
Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.