DENVER (AP) – The University of Colorado is going public with a $1.5 billion fundraising campaign that has already raised $900 million.

CU President Bruce Benson said Monday the Creating Futures campaign has operated mostly behind the scenes since it began in 2006.

“Our goal is to fund scholarships, provide faculty and program enhancement, improve facilities and boost privately funded research,” Benson said.

The first phase of the campaign has resulted in the best five years for fundraising in university history, he said. In the 2009-2010 fiscal year, the university received more than $140 million in private support, up almost 5 percent from the previous year.

“It’s a comprehensive fundraising campaign, the most ambitious in the university’s 135 year history,” Benson said.

The campaign is geared toward funding the university’s “four pillars of excellent and impact.”

“Learning and teaching, discovery and innovation, community and culture, health and wellness. These pillars cover everything we do at the University of Colorado,” Benson said.

Gov. John Hickenlooper attended Monday’s announcement. All the recent budget cuts that have been made to the state’s higher education fund need to be restored, and the campaign’s success doesn’t lessen the state’s responsibility to higher education, he said.

“This does not in any way reduce the obligation of the Legislature or the state to make sure that we continue to find additional funding,” Hickenlooper said.

The school expects 5 percent of its projected overall $2.9 billion budget to come from the state, said university spokesman Ken McConnellogue.

Most of the university’s operating expenses are covered by state funding, which is declining, Benson said. Private support is usually earmarked by the donor for specific programs and can’t be used for daily operations. Benson said 98 percent of the school’s contributions have been restricted by the donor.

Benson is co-chairman of the campaign with his wife, Marcy. They are among the top 10 individual donors to the University of Colorado Foundation, the fundraising arm of the university.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

– By Sheila V. Kumar, AP Writer

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)