The Ivy Coach Daily

October 15, 2021

College Endowment Returns

A piece in The New York Times focuses on the returns on various college endowments this past academic year.

During a period in which restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, and so many businesses large and small struggled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the endowments at many of our nation’s most elite universities skyrocketed. That’s right — the rich got richer. And what drove the gains? Largely investments with private equity companies, which in some cases account for up to a third of a school’s entire endowment (we’re looking at you, Harvard University). So which endowments rose the most among our nation’s top schools?

As Stephen Gandel reports for The New York Times in a piece entitled “Big university endowments make billions in returns in a bumper year.,” “On Thursday, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported that its endowment had gained 56 percent in its most recent fiscal year, which ended in June. Yale also published its latest returns Thursday, with its endowment up 40 percent over the same period, its third-highest annual return since 1970. Dartmouth posted a return of nearly 47 percent. Duke reported a 56 percent return. Harvard, which runs the biggest endowment (worth $53 billion), said Thursday that its fiscal-year return lagged many of its rivals, rising a mere 34 percent. Harvard’s endowment manager said this ’tremendous’ return nonetheless reflected ’the opportunity cost of taking lower risk’ than many of the school’s peers.”

With the S&P 500 up by a margin of about 40% in the 12-month period that ends in June, these aforementioned universities — with the exception of Harvard, home to the largest university endowment — all outperformed the S&P. These institutions thus must be quite pleased with their endowment managers. And, as for Harvard, we expect the school might take a little more risk over these next few years in their investments.

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