The wild ride of the markets had a huge impact on college investment funds in 2015, with the average increase at 2.4%, a far cry from the 15.5% posted in 2014.
Even with 10-year average returns down to 6.3%, nearly four in five endowment funds reported they increased spending over the previous year.
The data comes from the NACUBO Commonfund Study of Endowments, which reports on college investment funds each year. This year, there was some shuffling among the elite (top 20) funds, and a couple of them changed leadership. Still, stability remained the rule among college endowments.
NACUBO analyzed the endowment funds of 812 U.S. colleges and universities that have $529 billion in combined assets, with the average endowment at $651.5 million. Still half of the institutions studied had less than $115 million. The median spending increase was 8.8%, easily outpacing the inflation rate.
(See also the lists of top endowment funds from 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011.)
NACUBO notes that the percentage gains for the endowment funds do not equate to investment returns. Instead, the percentage change reflects the net impact of:
- Withdrawals to fund institutional operations and capital expenses;
- The payment of endowment management and investment fees;
- Additions from donor gifts and other contributions;
- Investment gains or losses.
In addition, the market value of real estate and other illiquid assets is estimated and can change quickly.
Check out the Top 20 Richest Colleges for 2015:
$5.6 billion, up 0.5%
2014 Ranking, No. 20: $5.5 billion
Allison Thacker continues as president and chief investment officer of the endowment fund, positions she has held since 2011.
19. Cornell University
$6 billion, up 2.5%
2014 Ranking, No. 19: $5.8 billion
CIO A.J. Edwards, in charge since 2012, continues at the helm the school’s Office of University Investments.
18. University of Virginia
$6.1 billion, up 3.9%
2014 Ranking, No. 18: $5.9 billion
Lawrence Kochard, CEO and CIO, has been in charge since 2011. Previously, he was at Janus Capital and was CIO of Georgetown’s endowment fund. Kristina Alimard continues as COO.
17. Emory University
$6.6 billion, no change
2014 Ranking, No. 16: $6. billion
Emory vice president for investments and CIO is Mary Cahill. She has held those roles for 15 years.
16. Washington University in St. Louis
$6.8 billion, up 2.6%
2014 Ranking, No. 17: $6.6 billion
For nearly a decade, Kimberly Walker has helmed the endowment office as CIO.
$7.2 billion, up 3.7%
2014 Ranking, No. 15: $7 billion
Neil Triplett has been piloting the endowment office for about 17 years.
14. University of Chicago
$7.6 billion, up 0.1%
2014 Ranking, No. 13: $7.5 billion
Mark Schmid, vice president and CIO, has led the 29-member investment team for eight years.
13. University of California
$8 billion, up 8.3%
2014 Ranking, No. 14: $7.3 billion
Jagdeep Singh Bachher was named CIO and vice president of investments in April 2014. Previously, he was an executive vice president at Alberta Investment Management Co., one of Canada’s largest investment fund managers.
12. University of Notre Dame
$8.6 billion, up 6.6%
2014 Ranking, No. 12: $8 billion
Scott Malpass, vice president and CIO of the Investment Office, returned to his alma mater in 1989.
11. Columbia University
$9.6 billion, up 4.5%