The University of Southern California announced on Sunday the public start of a seven-year effort to raise $6-billion, the largest campaign ever in higher education.
Southern California seeks to raise half of the $6-billion for its endowment, which still trails the endowments of 22 other colleges, despite decades of stellar fund raising. About $1.5-billion or more will go to capital projects.
The campaign, which has already raised $1-billion in a "quiet phase," will last until 2018. "I feel that in the long run, our endowment will be up there in the top tier," C.L. Max Nikias, the university's president, said in an interview. He took office just a year ago, in August 2010.
A larger endowment will help the university attract "rainmaker" faculty who bring in grants, attract top graduate students, and improve undergraduate instruction, Mr. Nikias said. "By raising the endowment of the school, we'll be able to secure those academic gains in the long term."
As part of the campaign announcement, Southern California said it had received pledges for three endowment gifts that each exceed $100-million. The largest is a $200-million gift from a trustee, David Dornsife, and his wife, Dana.
Mr. Nikias said the university planned to expand research and cancer facilities at its medical center and to vastly increase the amount of student housing, among other construction projects. The Annenberg Foundation has pledged $50-million to help finance a new building for Southern California's communications school.
Albert R. Checcio, senior vice president for university advancement, said officials at USC believe the record goal is well within their grasp.
"The $6-billion isn't about being the largest—that number wasn't selected with that in mind," Mr. Checcio said. "In another year from now, I'm guessing there will be something larger. It was selected because it's what we need to continue our academic ascent."
A previous record-setting capital campaign was by Stanford University, which announced in 2006 that it was seeking to raise $4.3-billion. Subsequently Columbia University, which had announced a $4-billion campaign in 2006, raised its goal to $5-billion.