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Preliminary FY 2009 Endowment Study Results Released

December 9, 2009

Preliminary data gathered from colleges and universities participating in the 2009 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments (NCSE) indicate that endowments and affiliated foundations had an average investment return of -19 percent (net of fees) for the 2009 fiscal year. The preliminary 10-year average net return is 4.2 percent.

The data gathered thus far come from in-depth surveys of 504 public and private colleges and universities, their supporting foundations, and community colleges. It is anticipated that more than 800 institutions will ultimately participate in the NCSE by the time final results are announced on January 27, 2010 at the NACUBO Endowment Management Forum in New York City.

Final Study results and analysis will go into considerably more depth, and will also break out data by size of endowment (ranging from those with assets of more than $1 billion to those with assets under $25 million) and by type of institution (public, private and foundations).

Additional preliminary data from the 2009 NCSE survey indicate that participating institutions' asset allocation as of June 30, 2009, was:

  • Domestic equities : 19 percent
  • Fixed income : 13 percent
  • International equities: 12 percent
  • Alternative strategies (private equity, hedge funds, etc.): 51 percent
  • Short-term securities/cash/other: 5 percent

Additional preliminary survey findings indicate that the 504 institutions to have reported thus far had an average endowment spending rate of 4.3 percent in FY2009, roughly the same as in FY2008.

The preliminary data also indicate a median debt level among participating institutions of $43.3 million. If the final figure is in this range it would be substantially higher than the median debt level of $28.3 million in last year's Educational Endowment Report issued by the Commonfund Institute.

The 2009 NCSE is the result of a landmark research partnership between NACUBO and Commonfund. Previously, the two organizations conducted separate studies of educational endowments' investment performance. The previous Commonfund Benchmarks Study of Educational Endowments and NACUBO Endowment Study were merged to create the 2009 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments (NCSE) on higher education endowment investment performance, asset allocation and related finance and governance issues. NCSE is the most comprehensive annual survey on higher education endowments and finance.


Ken Redd
Director, Research and Policy Analysis