College endowments see negative returns in first quarter of 2020

College endowments see negative returns in first quarter of 2020

The endowments of U.S. colleges and universities saw negative returns averaging -13.4 percent (net of fees) in the first three months of 2020, a survey by the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) and TIAA finds. 

Conducted between April 27 and May 5, the follow-up survey of institutions that participated in the 2019 NACUBO-TIAA Study of Endowments found that all 333 respondents' endowments experienced losses in the first quarter of the 2020 calendar year, with the smallest endowments seeing the largest average losses, ranging from -14.6 percent for endowments of $25 million or less to -11.4 percent for those of more than $1 billion. While 72 percent of respondents said they expected to maintain their current spending rate for FY2021, those with the smallest endowments were least likely (62.5 percent) to say they'd do so and those with the largest endowments most likely (88.2 percent) to do so.

The survey also found that as of the end of March, 20 percent of respondents' endowments were "underwater" — with funds below the original gift amount — including 24.6 percent of endowments between $50 million and $100 million and 22.8 percent of those between $100 million and $250 million. In addition, only 5 percent of all respondents said they planned to borrow against their endowments as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, while 18 percent were unsure — slightly lower percentages than for private institutions, of which 7 percent said they planned to borrow against their endowments and 24 percent said they were unsure.

"COVID-19 endowment impacts and stewardship strategies." National Association of College and University Business Officers report 06/12/2020.