Hillsdale is exempt from a new federal endowment tax. Courtesy | Col­legian Archives

Hillsdale College’s endowment now tops $900 million, fol­lowing a record-setting year in which the school raised $231 million.

“That pays the bills, keeps the lights on. It pays the salaries,” Vice Pres­ident for Insti­tu­tional Advancement Nancy Johnson said. “There are also things like projects, schol­ar­ships, etc., that need money raised every single year. 

The college received exactly $231,617,535 in the 2020 – 21 fiscal year, which fin­ished on June 30, made up of more than 870,000 gifts from 370,295 dif­ferent donors. Only about $67 million of that, however, is what the college calls “unre­stricted monies.”

At the end of the fiscal year, the total value of the endowment was $906 million. On top of that, the college’s endowment per student stands at around $600,000, the highest such number of any school in Michigan. 

Earlier this year,  Forbes awarded Hillsdale an A+ in its 2021 College Financial Health Grades, which marks the second con­sec­utive year in which it has received a perfect score. 

Only 38 of the 921 col­leges that Forbes sur­veyed received a perfect score. Not only was Hillsdale the only college from Michigan to receive a perfect score, but it is also the only one not to accept gov­ernment assistance.

“We’re ded­i­cated to our mission,” Vice Pres­ident for Finance and Trea­surer Patrick Flannery said. “We have a strong ded­i­cation to adhering to what our donors ask us to do, even after they die.”

Flannery oversees all of the college’s assets, including its day-to-day oper­a­tions, as well as the Hillsdale College Inde­pen­dence Foun­dation, the college’s non­profit organization.

“To me, it’s the expec­tation of how we should run this place,” Flannery said. “We were given the job to hand it off to the next gen­er­ation, and it’s our duty to make sure that we hand it off in the best shape possible.”

The other roughly $164 million donated over the last year is restricted by the donor, usually setting the money aside for schol­ar­ships, Johnson said. 

Two years ago, the college launched the Four Pillars Cam­paign, which seeks to raise $686.8 million by 2024. More than $260 million is planned for scholarships.

“Our new capital cam­paign, the Four Pillars Cam­paign, is named for the four pur­poses that define Hillsdale’s mission (learning, char­acter, faith, and freedom),” the Four Pillars pam­phlet reads. “Its success will ensure the college’s ability to serve these pur­poses into the future, and to meet the threats and chal­lenges that are sure to come.”

The Four Pillars Cam­paign pro­motes the col­lection of financial aid-focused dona­tions, which was already a top pri­ority for the college, Flannery said. “The vast majority, meaning over half, of the endowment, right now goes to financial aid,” Flannery said. “It’s the number- one pri­ority of the school, to make sure that we have it for students.”

Another reason for the college’s recent financial success was its rel­a­tively unique reaction to the COVID-19 pan­demic during the past year-and-a-half, Johnson said.

“Through the pan­demic and all the other social unrest that was hap­pening in the past year, Hillsdale College stood on its prin­ciples and didn’t back down,” Johnson said. “It res­onated with people or donors who follow the college passionately.”