Aha: After the surprising announcement from Stanford University that it was dropping out of the race to build a high-tech school campus in New York City, there was much speculation as to why the apparent frontrunner did so (Mayor Bloomberg had previously bragged that the school was "desperate" to build). Now here's one possibile reason: Cornell received a $350 million anonymous donation to go towards its proposal.

The city will provide free real estate as well as millions in infrastructure help for the project, which has attracted bids from numerous schools including NYU and Columbia. The NY Times reports, "The twin announcements threw a sharp curve into the contest, leaving Cornell’s $2 billion proposal for Roosevelt Island as the clear front-runner for what is seen as a prime opportunity to help reinvent higher education. The city is expected to select among the four remaining applicants in January, and bestow up to $400 million in land and infrastructure improvements."

Interestingly, the Times also says that Stanford's unfamiliarity with NYC was problematic: "The university, with no experience building in New York, recoiled at meeting terms laid down by the city after its proposal was submitted, while Cornell, with extensive experience in the city — its medical school is in Manhattan — expected such negotiations." Uh, commenter J R called it?

The Times' sources also say Cornell "simply behaved as if it needed and wanted the prize more. Cornell was more willing to accommodate the city’s demands and got an earlier start raising money." Cornell President David Skorton said, "I am thankful and proud that this extraordinary individual gift will support Cornell's goal to realize Mayor Bloomberg's vision for New York City."