This year’s Senior Class Gift to the Yale Alumni Fund is among the largest in the drive’s history, although participation in the drive hit its lowest level since 2003, fund directors said Thursday.

The three-week drive — which ran from Jan. 31 through Feb. 21 — raised a combined $18,784 for this year and an additional $71,553 pledged for the four years after graduation, with a 73 percent participation rate among the Class of 2006, Yale College Annual Giving Director Jennifer Foster said.

Although participation among seniors fell from 79 percent last year, Foster said the 114 senior volunteers for the drive were dedicated to meeting the targeted goals, Foster said.

“They were all incredibly committed and motivated to reach the goals that we had set with them,” Foster said. “We had almost all of the colleges raise at least $1,000. That’s an excellent result as well.”

The Class of 2005 raised $17,907 in its Senior Class Gift drive. The Class of 2004 raised $24,391 with an 83 percent participation rate, and the Class of 2003 raised $15,257 with a 74 percent class participation rate.

Seniors have the option to designate their donation to any of six areas, including unrestricted current use, financial aid, facilities renovation, faculty support and curriculum development, library collections, and undergraduate life, Foster said. Development Officer for the Yale College Alumni Fund Marie DiZazzo said the breakdown of students’ designations has not yet been tabulated.

Residential college participation in this year’s drive varied considerably — from 47 percent participation in Ezra Stiles College to 100 percent in Saybrook College. Totals raised from each college also differed — from a low of $885 in Trumbull College to a high of $2,503 in Morse College.

This year’s totals underscore the value seniors place on their Yale experience, drive co-chair Austin Broussard ’06 said.

“I think we did well in getting over 70 percent of the class to give and give generously,” Broussard said. “We’re just college students and I guess it shows how much the Yale experience has meant to all the seniors.”

Allegra Leitner ’06, the drive’s other co-chair, said the amount raised exceeded goals set by the Development Office, while the participation rate fell short by 1 to 2 percent. The last several days of the drive were particularly successful and “a little nerve-wracking,” Leitner said, with the participation rate rising from 30 to 40 percent of the class to 73 percent.

The minimum gift amount is $5, but seniors donate an average of $20 each, Leitner said. Saybrook College will receive a $2,500 prize from an anonymous parent donor for being the most active college in the drive, and any college raising at least $1,000 — this year 11 of the 12 residential colleges — receives a matching gift of $1,000 from an anonymous parent donor, she said.

The high participation rate in Saybrook can be attributed to the cohesiveness of the college in general and among this year’s class in particular, Saybrook drive volunteer Matthew Vorsanger ’06 said.

“A lot of collecting donations is how well you know someone and impressing the importance of the Senior Class Gift on them,” Vorsanger said. “We have a really close class this year.”

Emily Chakwin ’06, an Ezra Stiles senior, said she felt the time was not right for her to donate.

“I certainly intend to donate in the future, possibly to specific organizations rather than to Yale in general, and [will] wait awhile until I have a steady income and am not still paying tuition,” Chakwin said.

Associate Vice President for Development Joan O’Neill said the gift provides an opportunity for seniors to give back to Yale.

“I think that by making a gift, it is a chance for seniors to reflect on what Yale has meant to them and all that they have gained,” O’Neill said in an e-mail. “But I would also say that it is the first opportunity for these individuals who will soon be Yale graduates to make a gift, which we hope will begin a pattern of giving.”

The Senior Class Gift has existed in several forms since 1997, DiZazzo said in an e-mail. The program began as a single year gift and became in 2003 the current five-year pledge campaign, DiZazzo said. The campaigns from 2003 to 2005 were conducted over four weeks, she said, but this year’s campaign was shortened by one week.