College and university endowments that sagged significantly in the recent economic downturn have bounced back in a big way.
That’s according to preliminary findings from a study by the National Association of College and University Business Officers.
“As the economic condition improves, you will see the philanthropic in a better position to share their increased wealth,” said Dale Seuferling, president of University of Kansas Endowment, KU’s nonprofit fundraising arm.
The Council for Aid to Education reported that donors gave about $34 billion to the country’s colleges in 2013, more than $3 billion more than the year before and the most ever raised in a single year — topping the $31.6 billion from pre-recession 2008. A report on the survey of 2014 giving to schools won’t be out until February. But with college endowments regaining strength, it’s a good indication that donors are giving again.
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Although the strongest rebounds appear to be happening at Yale, Harvard and other elite private colleges that already were sitting on huge endowment funds, things also are looking rosy for large public universities, including those in Missouri and Kansas.
KU’s endowed funds broke through the billion-dollar ceiling in fiscal year 2006, at $1.05 billion, and grew to more than $1.2 billion in 2008. That was the year the recession hit, knocking the funds back below a billion dollars. Those funds, managed by KU Endowment, now sit at nearly $1.5 billion.
“We had never seen anything like that, when our endowment dropped like that,” said Rosita McCoy, spokeswoman for KU Endowment. “It took us a while to get back to where we were.”
It was 2011 before KU began seeing its endowment return to where it had been three years earlier.
“It has been a steady climb,” Seuferling said.
In December, the university received its largest single donation ever from a private individual. That $58 million gift will boost the university’s endowment for fiscal 2015, which ends June 30.
Key to protecting the school’s endowment, Seuferling said, is “maintaining intergenerational equity or trying to maintain our spending stream so as not to go through peaks and valleys. We are in this for the long term.”
Kansas State University saw its $337 million endowment in 2008 plunge during the recession to $260 million.
“It took fiscal years 2009, ’10 and ’11 for us to recover,” said Fred Cholick, president and chief executive officer for the Kansas State University Foundation. The endowment is up to nearly $500 million.
Good investment management and a generous community, Cholick said, have helped pump up K-State’s endowment. Last year K-State received its largest single private gift in history: $60 million from the Jack Vanier family.
“That really moved the needle for us,” Cholick said.
The University of Missouri four-campus system manages the endowment for its Columbia, St. Louis and Rolla campuses and a portion of University of Missouri-Kansas City’s endowment. The UM System’s Endowment Pool totaled $1.3 billion on June 30 and comprises more than 5,000 endowment accounts.
The system holds $140 million in endowment funds for UMKC, which didn’t form its own foundation until 2009.
At the end of the last fiscal year, UMKC’s endowment reached $35 million, up $8.3 million from the previous year.
“It’s a combination of generous donations from our supporters and after the recession we changed our investment strategy,” said university spokesman John Martellaro.
UMKC increased investments in alternative strategies such as hedge funds and real estate investment trusts, he said.
This year, more change is coming for UMKC’s Foundation, which after five years has a new president. Steven P. Norris now leads the foundation, succeeding Murray Blackwelder, who retired.