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A state matching fund drove up private donations to public universities, according to a study published in the American Educational Research Journal.

The study, by researchers at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, examined the results of the Texas Research Incentive Program. The program offers state matching funds for private gifts to the University of Houston, the University of North Texas, Texas Tech University, Texas State University and four University of Texas branch campuses.

Researchers found that universities in the program saw a 37.2 percent annual increase -- about $6.7 million more per year -- in private gifts made by donors when compared to what institutions that weren't in the program received.

“Our study provides new evidence that increased government support could stimulate monetary donations and help build universities’ research capacity,” Denisa Gándara, co-author and assistant professor at Southern Methodist University, said in a press release. “Government support appears to signal two things to potential donors: one, that their dollar will be worth more given the matching funds, and two, that their research for the eligible institutions is a valuable one.”

Researchers pointed out that several questions remain unanswered, including whether the program's model increases institutional inequity over time.