November, 2010Preliminary data gathered from 80 U.S. colleges and universities for the 2010 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments® (NCSE) indicate that these institutions’ endowments returned an average of 12.6 percent (net of fees) for the 2010 fiscal year (July 1, 2009 – June 30, 2010), compared with a return on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of 14.4 percent for the same period. Among this group, the highest return earned for FY2010 was 36.2 percent and the lowest was 4.8 percent. The data are broken down into six categories according to size of endowment, ranging from institutions with endowment assets under $25 million to those with assets in excess of $1 billion. In the past, larger endowments have tended to outperform smaller ones. However – bearing in mind that these data are preliminary – this year’s sample shows institutions with assets under $25 million returning an average of 14.1 percent while those with assets over $1 billion realized an average return of 12.3 percent. Mid-range endowments—those with assets between $101 and $500 million—reported an average return of 13.8 percent. The lowest average return, 11.3 percent, has come from endowments with assets between $25 and $50 million.
A slightly smaller sample drawn from 64 institutions shows that trailing three-year returns averaged -3.4 percent; trailing five-year returns averaged 2.7 percent; and trailing 10-year returns averaged 3.2 percent (all net of fees).
Researchers are still gathering and tabulating data for the full NCSE; final results will be released in late January at the NACUBO (National Association of College and University Business Officers) Endowment Management Forum in New York City. Last year’s NCSE reported and analyzed return data and a broad range of related information reported by 842 U.S. colleges and universities, both public and private, as well as their supporting foundations. The size and scope of the study make it the most comprehensive annual report on the investment management and governance practices and policies of institutions of higher education across the U.S.
“It appears that FY2010 will go down as a somewhat of an anomaly,” said a joint statement from NACUBO President and Chief Executive Officer John D. Walda and Commonfund Institute Executive Director John S. Griswold. “It is unusual to see smaller institutions outperforming larger ones, as happened in FY2009 and FY2010. But smaller institutions tend to have larger allocations to the traditional asset classes of domestic equities and fixed income, and these asset classes produced good returns over a period when equities rebounded strongly from the FY2009 sell-off and fixed income benefited from declining interest rates. It remains to be seen whether this pattern will continue into future years.”
The FY2010 effective spending rate for the group of 64 institutions averaged 4.3 percent, little changed from the 4.4 percent average rate reported in FY2009. The median gift to endowments in FY2010 was $1.1 million. The average percentage of institutions’ operating budgets supported by annual giving was 6.2 percent. Final study results and analyses will go into greater depth, including asset allocation and governance metrics, and will also break out data by size of endowment and by type of institution (public, private and foundations).
NACUBO is a membership organization representing more than 2,500 colleges, universities and higher education service providers across the country and around the world. NACUBO specifically represents chief business and financial officers through advocacy efforts, community service and professional development activities. The association’s mission is to advance the economic viability and business practices of higher education institutions in fulfillment of their academic missions. For additional information, please visit www.nacubo.org.
About Commonfund Institute
Commonfund Institute houses the education and research activities of Commonfund and provides the entire community of long-term investors with investment information and professional development programs. Commonfund Institute is dedicated to the advancement of investment knowledge and the promotion of best practices in financial management. In addition to teaming with NACUBO to produce the NCSE, Commonfund Institute provides a wide variety of resources, including conferences, seminars and roundtables on topics such as endowments and treasury management; proprietary and third-party research and publications, including the Higher Education Price Index (HEPI); and events such as the annual Commonfund Forum and Commonfund Endowment Institute.
Founded in 1971, Commonfund is devoted to enhancing the financial resources of long-term investors including nonprofit institutions, corporate pension plans and family offices through superior fund management, investment advice and treasury operations. Directly or through its subsidiaries—Commonfund Capital and Commonfund Asset Management Company— Commonfund manages approximately $25.5 billion for about 1,580 clients. Commonfund, together with its subsidiary companion organizations, offers more than 30 different investment programs. All securities are distributed through Commonfund Securities, Inc. For additional information about Commonfund, please visit www.commonfund.org.