Stanford last year became the first university to raise more than $1 billion in a single year, according to the Council for Aid to Education's annual college fundraising survey.

Partly because of large donations from entrepreneurial alumni who have made their fortunes in Silicon Valley, Stanford has been the top fundraiser for eight straight years.

Earlier this month, the university in Palo Alto, Calif., announced that its five-year capital campaign, which ended Dec. 31, had brought in a record-breaking $6.23 billion exceeding its goal of $4.3 billion and surpassing by more than $2 billion any other single higher-education campaign.

"Stanford has been doing a remarkable job," said Ann E. Kaplan, the director of the council's report. " … They have some very big ideas, and they're good at capturing people's imagination, thinking about what they can do and what they could be."

Wednesday's report found that U.S. colleges and universities raised $31 billion last year, or 2.3 percent more than the previous year, just slightly ahead of the inflation rate. That is still slightly less than the $31.6 billion record, set in 2008, before the financial crisis cut deeply into charitable giving.

After Stanford, the fundraising sums drop sharply: Harvard raised $650 million; Yale, $544 million; the University of Southern California, $492 million; and Columbia, $400 million. Among public universities, the University of California, Berkeley, led with $405 million.

Stanford's $1.035 billion in gifts last year comes to about $56,000 for each of the university's 18,500 undergraduate and graduate students.

After Stanford's success, other institutions have upped their ante: Columbia, which announced a $4 billion campaign in 2006, has raised its goal to $5 billion by December. USC has started a seven-year, $6 billion capital campaign.

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