COLUMBIA -- The University of South Carolina is embarking on the largest college fundraising campaign in the state's history, with hopes of raising $1 billion by the summer of 2015, President Harris Pastides announced.

"The economy is tough, but the need is profound," he said. "I am confident in our ability to successfully meet this ambitious goal."

Fewer than two dozen public universities nationwide have attempted to reach that figure, said Martin Grenzebach, chairman of the Chicago-based Grenzebach Glier & Associates, a nonprofit fundraising consulting firm.

The university has already raised nearly $529 million since the campaign's unannounced phase began in July 2007. Those large donors were recognized at a reception Friday night -- an event Pastides called the campaign's "grand opening."