More Pain for College Endowments

Northwestern, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Seattle post substantial losses. Michigan and Princeton do OK.

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More endowment numbers have come in, and it is not looking good at all.

Northwestern lost more than 14 percent of its nearly $7 billion endowment. According to university President Henry Bienen, the school's investment situation is "the worst since the Great Depression," a position that may affect faculty hires and future construction.

The University of Wisconsin reports a staggering 20 percent drop in its endowment, a loss of at least $300 million since the stock market's rapid decline this fall. Plus, the Badger fundraising campaign is also feeling the hurt from the economy, with the number of gifts to the foundation down 12 percent from last year.

The University of Maryland has lost about $63 million since the beginning of the year, a 15 percent drop. On the bright side, Maryland has seen relatively steady fundraising returns, with its capital campaign running slightly ahead of schedule.

Michigan State's $1.4 billion investment portfolio declined by about 10 percent for the quarter that ended September 30. MSU's president, however, did not betray much panic; some maintenance may be delayed, but no major plans will be stalled, so far.

"You put together reserve and contingency funds and we've done that," she said. "You have to keep them for this kind of storm. We've tried to plan in a way that we minimized vulnerability to shorter-term issues. Now obviously if this lasted for a very long time, everyone is going to be in trouble."

Seattle University also lost 10 percent of its endowment, which now sits at $200 million.

On the good news front, following the trend of other well-situated schools, Princeton's endowment grew 5.6 percent last fiscal year (although not quite as impressive as the previous year's 24.7 percent), while the University of Michigan saw 6.4 percent growth in its $7.6 billion endowment as of June 30.