The college “endowment” is basically the total value of an institution’s investments—property, stocks, and cash. It mostly comes from donations from rich alums and others, but grows with wise management.
Usually colleges use the interest from their endowments to cover worthy expenses like scholarships for students. A college with a huge endowment may be less concerned about getting 100% of tuition from every student and can afford to repair buildings or buy new technology.
And the size of an endowment can be an indicator of the financial health of an institution. Nearly all endowments took serious hits after 2008 and have been working hard to recover since.
But things are looking up. Better market conditions helped boost endowment gains for the 2013 fiscal year, according to the 2013 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. In fact the average North American college endowment fund grew by 11.7 percent.
Although the largest endowments mostly support elite public universities or university systems, a handful of public colleges have made it into the top 25 endowments including the University of Michigan (8), University of California (14), University of Virginia (19), and the Ohio State University (24).
And it’s also interesting to look at institutions that experienced significant—well above average—growth in their endowments over the past year. Among these are Carnegie Mellon University (+38.9%), Ohio State University (+33.1%), Penn State (66.1%), University of the Pacific (+66.8%), Mercy College (+61.3%), Lenoir-Rhyne University (+51%), Ringling College of Art & Design (+40%), Marymount University (+42%), Northland College (+40.4%), and the biggest percentage increase of all at Virginia Commonwealth University (+202.9%).
The DC area is home to a number of colleges with endowments among the top 150 in the nation, including the University of Virginia (19), Johns Hopkins University (25), University of Richmond (34), George Washington (55), Washington and Lee (59), Virginia Commonwealth University (61), Georgetown (64), University System of Maryland (94), William & Mary (118), and Virginia Tech (127).
Top 25 endowment funds by rank order ($000s):
- Harvard University $32,334,293 (+6.2%)
- Yale University $20,780,000 (+7.4%)
- University of Texas System $20,448,313 (+12%)
- Stanford University $18,688,868 (+9.7%)
- Princeton University $18,200,433 (+7.4%)
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology $11,005,932 (+6.8%)
- Texas A&M University System $8,732,010 (+14.3%)
- University of Michigan $8,382,311 (+9%)
- Columbia University $8,197,880 (+7.1%)
- Northwestern University $7,883,323 (+10.7%)
- University of Pennsylvania $7,741,396 (+14.6%)
- University of Notre Dame $6,856,301 (+8.3%)
- University of Chicago $6,668,974 (+1.5%)
- University of California $6,377,379 (+7%)
- Duke University $6,040,973 (+8.7%)
- Emory University $5,816,046 (+6.5%)
- Washington University in St. Louis $5,651,860 (+8.1%)
- Cornell University $5,272,228 (+6.6%)
- University of Virginia $5,166,660 (+7.9%)
- Rice University $4,836,728 (+9.5%)
- University of Southern California $3,868,355 (+10.9%)
- Dartmouth College $3,733,596 (+7.1%)
- Vanderbilt University $3,673,434 (+8.1%)
- Ohio State University $3,149,169 (+33.1%)
- Johns Hopkins University $2,987,298 (+11.5%)