Clemson University announced the launch of a $600 million fundraising campaign Thursday, but it's already more than halfway to its goal.

The goal of the capital campaign, called "The Will to Lead," is to raise the money by June 30, 2012, school officials said.

They already have raised $433 million since they began the "quiet phase" of the campaign in 2007, said Brian O'Rourke, the school's director of development and alumni affairs. He said it is typical for an institution to raise about 50 percent of its goal before publicly announcing a campaign.

"During the quiet phase, you get the family to support you. You get them excited," he said.

Sixty percent of the money raised so far will go toward things that have a direct impact on students and faculty members, he said. The remaining 40 percent will go toward economic development initiatives, such as the Restoration Institute in North Charleston or the International Center for Automotive Research in Greenville.

The university hopes to maintain that ratio after it raises the entire $600 million, he said.

A news release from the university stated that the money will be used for "students and faculty, and the programs, facilities and technology that support them." It also said the campaign will raise money for "scholarships and fellowships to recruit and retain the most promising students." And it will raise money to bring in leading professors and researchers, according to the release.

Many gifts raised through the campaign will be in the form of endowments, which means the university can spend only a portion of the income generated by those investments, according to the release.

The university's endowment is about $380 million. But school officials said the average endowment of 19 of the public universities that U.S. News & World Report rank as the top 20 is $2.2 billion.

Clemson has set a goal to become one of U.S. News & World Report's top 20 public universities. The publication currently ranks the university 23rd.

University leaders said the money raised in the capital campaign can't be used to hold down tuition or compensate for cuts in state appropriations. Many gifts are in the form of endowments, and others are given for a specific purpose, they said.

According to the news release, "most donors are motivated by a desire to support students, academic excellence or unique opportunities. Few are interested in helping a university pay its routine expenses."

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or dknich@postandcourier.com.