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.
Commonfund Forum, currently being held in Hollywood, Florida, released its annual survey data today showing that institutional investor expectations for 2013 remain positive. Commonfund conducted its third annual Commonfund Investor Outlook Survey™ which gauges the sentiment of the more the 500 participants at the Commonfund Forum. This year data was collected from 217 attendees representing a broad range of nonprofit institutional investors and pension funds. The combined assets were $123 billion.
Sterling College, which claims to be the smallest liberal arts school in the country, has decided to divest its $920,000 endowment of stocks in fossil fuel companies as a way to help combat global warming.
On average, investment returns on college and university endowments declined by 0.3 percent in the last fiscal year, a sharp drop from the average return of 19.2 percent in fiscal 2011, according to a study by the Commonfund Institute and the National Association of College and University Business Officers, known as Nacubo.
The Board of Trustees at Unity College in Maine has voted to divest their endowment from fossil fuel industries. Now, the Harvard College Undergraduate Council has announced they want Harvard University to divest its $30.7 billion endowment from fossil fuels.
Brandeis’ roughly $700 million endowment took a negative dip in the last fiscal year, after several years of rebuilding from losses sustained in the 2008 recession. The endowment draw rate also declined slightly.
Judy Woodruff, formerly a student, visiting professor and member of the Board of Trustees at Duke, has been elected a trustee of the Charlotte-based Duke Endowment. She has worked at CNN, NBC News and PBS—where she is currently the co-anchor and senior correspondent.
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.
A group of Swarthmore College students is asking the school administration to take a seemingly simple step to combat pollution and climate change: sell off the endowment’s holdings in large fossil fuel companies. For months, they have been getting a simple answer: no.