Today's New York Times reports CUNY reached $1.2 billion in fund-raising three years ahead of schedule, which is described as a remarkable accomplishment for a "public system that historically attracted immigrants and working-class students."
One recent paper on the charitable giving of immigrants confirms that immigrant status tends to be associated with lower probabilities and levels of giving, but that once you control for wealth and other characteristics, the effect basically vanishes.
Although City University is a relatively old institution, parts of it are quite young. Queens College dates from 1937, while City, Hunter, Baruch, and Brooklyn are older. With considerable growth in the system after World War II, is it a surprise that charitable donations might not have picked up steam until a point where graduates were old enough to afford it?