KU sets goal to raise $2.5 billion in private funds by 2028 to fund major projects in Lawrence and beyond

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

KU Endowment President Daniel Martin visits with supporters at a campaign kickoff event for KU's new $2.5 billion fundraising campaign on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023 at the Jayhawk Welcome Center.

From fighting cancer to attracting students from across the nation, leaders at the University of Kansas have a big plan for the state’s flagship university.

Now, they’ve also got a big new dollar goal to help make it happen: $2.5 billion.

KU Chancellor Douglas Girod on Thursday evening announced that KU is aiming to raise $2.5 billion in private donations by 2028. The fundraising campaign — dubbed Ever Onward — would be the largest in the university’s history, surpassing the $1.6 billion raised in the Far Above campaign that concluded in 2016.

University leaders told a crowd of about 650 people at the Jayhawk Welcome Center that the timing for the historic campaign is right because the university has strong momentum in many areas, but also must be prepared for a changing landscape in higher education.

“If we are going to be what we need to be for our state, we have to accomplish this goal,” Girod told the Journal-World.

Girod said he was confident KU supporters would meet the challenge.

“I think you will see the momentum we have had over the last couple of years will accelerate on every front,” Girod said. “You won’t recognize this university at the end of this campaign.”

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

KU leaders unveil the name and logo of of their new $2.5 billion capital fundraising campaign at a kickoff event a campaign kickoff event on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023 at the Jayhawk Welcome Center.

KU Endowment, the fundraising arm of the university, will lead the campaign. Daniel Martin, president of KU Endowment, said fundraising work has already begun, and that the campaign would become much more visible to the general public with websites, events and other activities.

“There is a lot of momentum at the university right now,” Martin told the Journal-World. “This is the time to capture it and propel it forward because we can elevate the University of Kansas, our region and our state in ways we never have before.”

The fundraising campaign will be a broad one. The money raised will fund initiatives at the Lawrence campus, KU’s medical school in Kansas City, Kan., and the University of Kansas Health System, which operates health care facilities across the state. That’s an important detail because KU leaders believe KU is on the cusp of becoming a renowned research institution in the battle against cancer, which could result in hundreds of millions of dollars in new research grants for the school.

KU last year became just the 53rd entity to receive the National Cancer Institute’s highest designation of a Comprehensive Cancer Center. But now, KU leaders say they need to build a state-of-the art cancer treatment and research building on the Kansas City, Kan. campus to fully unlock the potential of the cancer center designation. KU already has raised more than $140 million for the project, and is working to introduce state legislation that would open the door for $150 million in additional funding — $75 million from the state matched by $75 million from private foundations.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

KU Chancellor Douglas Girod, right, celebrates with supporters at a campaign kickoff event for KU’s new $2.5 billion fundraising campaign on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023 at the Jayhawk Welcome Center.

The cancer center building would be a big selling point in KU’s efforts to garner $2.5 billion in private donations. But it won’t be the only one.

Like universities across the country, KU is expected to face strong headwinds in growing enrollment, as the number of high school graduates in America will start declining sharply in 2025 — the result of fewer families having children during the period of the Great Recession in the late 2000s.

Money from the campaign is expected to help fund initiatives to boost enrollment, including increased marketing to attract students from both inside the state and out. KU this fall announced the freshman class was the largest in the school’s history, and the latest numbers show KU is relying more heavily on out-of-state students.

Girod told members of the Kansas Board of Regents, who were touring the KU campus on Thursday, that out-of-state students made up 43% of KU’s current enrollment, a new high for the university.

Girod said portions of the capital campaign will be devoted to scholarships to make higher education more affordable. Other initiatives mentioned during Thursday’s announcement included:

• A project to make the medical center a national leader in Alzheimer’s research and treatment.

• A continuing initiative to provide greater pay and benefits to university faculty and staff.

• Work that is underway on a $300 million-plus project to revamp KU’s football stadium, while also adding a conference and convention center to the site.

• A joint project with Wichita State University to build a new health campus in downtown Wichita that will provide a new home for KU students in Wichita who are seeking a medical degree, while also providing space for KU’s pharmacy school and Wichita State’s nursing programs and other health-related degrees.

Girod, in a pre-recorded message that played on the approximately 40-foot-wide video board inside the Welcome Center, told the crowd the campaign would give KU the resources to confront a future with “urgent, complex challenges,” and to do so in a way that will impact lives across the state and region.

“In 2028 we intend to celebrate having raised $2.5 billion to save lives, to change lives, to improve lives and to make our world better together,” Girod said.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Members of the Marching Jayhawks play at a campaign kickoff event for KU’s new $2.5 billion fundraising campaign on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023 at the Jayhawk Welcome Center.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

Daniel Martin, president of KU Endowment, pictured at a campaign kickoff event for KU’s new $2.5 billion fundraising campaign on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023 at the Jayhawk Welcome Center.


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