The University of Missouri may be struggling to grow its enrollment, but its endowment has reached a record level, topping $1 billion.
In announcing the total Wednesday, university officials said such financial support is bound to attract “quality students and faculty” to the Columbia campus.
The new endowment total, university officials said in a statement, represents “a major milestone for the university.”
MU’s endowment hit the billion-dollar mark — $1,003,739,236, to be precise — through new private gifts and stock market growth. The endowment has increased by more than $400 million in the six years since the university launched its “Mizzou: Our Time to Lead” campaign.
“Generations of donors have graciously invested in our students and faculty, and we cannot thank them enough for their long-term vision and generosity,” said MU Chancellor Alexander N. Cartwright. “Our students and faculty achieve great things when we give them the support they need to pursue their passions in education, research and engagement.”
Some of the top donors include Rich and Nancy Kinder, who made a $25 million gift to establish the Kinder Institute in 2015; the William Reynolds Foundation, which gave $30.1 million for the Reynolds Journalism Institute in 2012; and David Novak, who gave $21.6 million to establish the Novak Leadership Institute.
University officials said building the endowment is one of their top priorities.
The endowment consists of 3,800 endowed funds. To preserve the principal, the university spends only 4 percent of each fund’s value annually. The spending breakdown: 33 percent on scholarships, 29 percent on programs, 22 percent on faculty positions and 14 percent on other categories. Two percent is unrestricted.
“The vast majority of donors direct where their dollars are spent,” said Tom Hiles, vice chancellor for advancement. “It is very much the exception for endowed dollars to go to capital or operations.”
The endowment’s value dropped in 2009 during the economic recession.
“The markets got killed that year,” Hiles said.
The endowment slipped in 2016, a year after race-related protests erupted on the Columbia campus. The fallout from those protests, university officials agree, blemished MU’s reputation, drew criticism from state legislators and slowed enrollment. The 2017 incoming class was down 33 percent from two years earlier, and total enrollment is down nearly 13 percent since 2015.
MU is the seventh school in the South Eastern Conference to achieve a $1 billion endowment. Texas A&M has the largest endowment at $9.7 billion, Vanderbilt is at $4.1 billion and University of Alabama is at $1.2 billion. The smallest endowment is $470 million at Mississippi State.
Of the 1,644 public higher education institutions in the nation, MU is the 37th to reach the billion-dollar mark. The University of Kansas had an endowment of $1.4 billion as of June 30, the official end of the fiscal year for the universities. It has since risen to $1.5 billion.
Some elite private schools have endowments larger than the gross domestic products of many small nations, including Harvard, which has a $36 billion endowment, the largest in the United States. Yale’s endowment is $24.5 billion.
“Endowed gifts are a great way to leave a lasting legacy,” Hiles said. “It is inspiring to know that a hundred years from now, these gifts will continue to make a difference.”