You are here

Articles: Endowments

smoke stacks

Stop Feeding the Monster. End the Coal Age. Divest the West. Sandy Says: Divest Climate Destruction. Bound by Fossil Fuels, Freed by Action.

Messages like these have emblazoned banners on campuses across the country since 350.org’s Fossil Free divestment campaign began last November.

There are seven areas of oversight that trustees of higher education institutions should consider as fiduciaries. Mistakes in any of these areas can negatively impact the expected growth and risk profile of the portfolio, and in turn, the institution’s financial well-being.

Mistake #1: Not Tracking Total Investment Portfolio Performance

Although the legislation only applies to institutions based in New York, the New York Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act of 2010 has led to discussion in other states about how endowments should be managed to respect donor intentions while meeting institutional needs. Some key points include:

The financial crisis is in the past, more or less, and campuses are looking ahead to a new era for their endowments. But what does this mean? Four years on, we’ve come to grips with the changes wrought by the September 2008 market crash. Finance departments are revising their theories and boards of trustees are revising their expectations under what has been called the “new normal”—a time of low stock market returns, low interest rates, and low growth in personal income.

To outperform the broad U.S. equity market, many college and university endowments focus primarily on hiring active managers to outperform a narrow part of the market, such as large-cap growth or small-cap value, while maintaining an equal allocation between growth stocks and value stocks. In addition to active management, however, these endowments should also consider taking advantage of a structural bias that exists in the U.S. equity market: the outperformance of value stocks relative to growth stocks over longer periods (the value premium).

California Lutheran University and the City of Thousand Oaks grew up together. California Lutheran College was officially incorporated on Aug. 4, 1959, five years before the city incorporated. CLU is just finishing a wonderful celebration of its first 50 years. And the same birthday is coming up for Thousand Oaks.

Future Shock

Darwin put it this way: "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change." This simple truth in nature may best describe the evolution of the most nimble higher ed ownership models in the 21st century.

Westridge Capital Management, formed in 1996, promised investors enhanced cash returns by trading equity index futures. The firm's performance was so attractive, a host of pensions and endowments invested with it, including Bowling Green State University (Ohio), Carnegie Mellon University (Pa.), Ohio Northern University, and the University of Pittsburgh. In 2009, the Securities and Exchange Commission alleged that staff at Westridge invested very little client money.

It's common to find students filing papers in campus offices, restocking library shelves, or checking IDs at the fitness center to make a buck. What's a little less common is students replacing sidewalks and entranceways to dorms, building fountains, and constructing additions.

Interest in collecting payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) from higher ed institutions and other nonprofits is likely to grow as cash-strapped municipalities seek additional revenue, according to a new report by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. But the recommendation for cities and towns is to collaborate with colleges about the payments to ensure greater consistency and transparency.

Gov. Mitch Daniels recently implored Indiana's public college trustees to maximize efficiencies and cut administrative costs. Instead of coming to the "Statehouse asking for more money," as he stated, trustees should "stay back at the school and find ways to be more efficient with those dollars." As the president of Indiana's largest public college, I applaud the Governor for acknowledging how critical it is to manage costs as our state faces serious budget challenges. And we all have put some recent efforts in place, under the guidance of our trustees, to cut spending.

College graduates are used to hearing from their alma maters with requests about donations and to cheer on the school athletic teams. But lately, alumni from a growing number of institutions are hearing the sounds of alumni offices retooling themselves to offer an unprecedented array of services and programs.

The economic crisis has dominated the headlines since September 2008 and taken its toll on individuals and institutions alike. Few have been immune to the effects of a volatile stock market, low interest rates, rising unemployment, tight credit markets, and plunging real estate values.

Year-end statements for pensions, 403(b) accounts, and mutual funds aren't as frightening to open as they were this time last year. University endowment managers usually wait until their fiscal year ends in June before they really look at their statements, but interim surveys indicate that performance has improved.

WHEN IT BECOMES HARDER TO raise funds and the notion of success is coming up with just 90 percent of last year's revenues, fundraisers must get smarter--by better understanding their donors and the different tools and approaches to connecting with them. Colleges and universities of all sizes now have the opportunity to influence and motivate a new generation of donors and get them in the "habit of giving," but it's an uphill climb. The competition for every second of attention and each dollar is frenetic.

Pages