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Columbia University launched a $1.15 billion capital campaign last week, the largest-ever fundraising drive of any college or university. Surpassing the $1 billion goal of the University's year-old capital campaign, Columbia joined Stanford University in raising the stakes past the $1 billion mark. And Cornell University is also expected to kick off a campaign later this month which development officials said will also shoot over $1 billion. Despite widespread forecasts of a troubled economy in coming years, officials at all the schools said they are optimistic that they will reach their goals. When the University announced its own five-year capital campaign last October, the drive was the largest ever by a higher education institution. The University recently passed its midpoint three months ahead of schedule, garnering $517 million and 86 endowed chairs. Officials are hoping to secure 150 endowed professorships. Although officials say it is too early to predict whether the University will surpass its goal, Capital Campaign Director Brodie Remington said last week that the fund drive is proceeding successfully. Columbia is aiming to endow 100 new professorships and raise $100 million for student financial aid in the course of its five-year "New Campaign for Columbia." Fundraising efforts began last fall when the university raised $329 million in its "nucleus fund phase," according to a Columbia press release. Columbia Public Information Director Fred Knubel said yesterday that although some officials are concerned about the stability of the nation's economy, they do not anticipate major problems in securing donations. "Clearly we wouldn't begin a campaign if we were worried," Knubel said. Capital Campaign Director Remington said yesterday that considering the nation's economic outlook, he is glad the University kicked off its campaign last year, but added that economic ups and downs are to be expected in any five year period. "We launched it at, in retrospect, a pretty good time," he added. "Columbia is launching it at a less favorable moment, but things tend to work out in the long haul, and both Columbia and we are in this for the long run." Cornell University Development Director Inge Reichenbach said yesterday that Cornell will start its own five-year capital campaign on October 19, wrapping up its two-year nucleus phase. She declined to comment on the target amount, but said it will exceed the University's own $1 billion goal. She added that although the current national economic scene "is of concern to everybody," over the course of the period, "there are high points and low points." Brent Mitchell contributed to this story.

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