Today’s news:

SJU tries to drum up $$ from public

St. John’s University Friday kicked off the public phase of a $200 million capital fund-raising campaign, only the second such campaign in the 132-year history of the private university.

The campaign had already raised $116 million during two years of “silent” fund-raising before going public with a more organized, publicized effort that aims to reach or surpass $200 million within three years, said university spokesman Jody Fisher.

Catherine Camera, executive director of development, said the capital campaign funds programs and endowments are not included in the daily fund that covers everyday operations of the school. Instead, the campaign’s dollars are earmarked for four specific areas at St. John’s: facilities, such as the new soccer stadium and dorms; attracting and keeping faculty; special programs, including technology upgrades; and student scholarships.

Undergraduate tuition for full-time students costs $17,850 this year, a $900 increase from last year’s tuition of $16,900, said Donna Reid of St. John’s Student Services center.

“Universities have to remain competitive — that costs money," Fisher said. “Some of these costs, unfortunately, have to be passed on to students, but we try to offset that with giving scholarship money to our students.”

Fisher estimated about 80 percent of St. John’s students receive some sort of financial aid, whether in university scholarships or federal and state grants and loans.

Although financial aid at the school is primarily need-based, Camera said new scholarships should become available if the university meets its goal in the capital campaign.

“We continue to do all in our power to make an excellent education available to those who most desperately need such an opportunity,” said St. John's president Donald J. Harrington in a statement.

Scholarship funding and financial aid are already on the rise, according to Fisher, who noted that the school provided $64 million to students from its own coffers this year, up from $67 million last year.

Donors have already given 34 gifts of $1 million or more in the past two years, Fisher said. By comparison, from its founding in 1870 until a change in administration about two years ago, the university only received one gift that exceeded $1 million, Fisher said.

Reach reporter Patricia Demchak by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.

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