Western leads state in endowment growth

Shawntaye Hopkins

The figures have proven that even as budget cuts are taking money away from the university, Western’s alumni continue to give.

Western’s endowment growth led its benchmarks and other state institutions last fiscal year, which ended June 30. Endowments increased by 19.5 percent since the end of that year.

Western’s endowment grew 16.2 percent in the last fiscal year, as reported by the university and the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

More than 700 universities participated in the annual NACUBO survey last year.

Tom Hiles, vice president of Institutional Advancement, attributes much of Western’s success to President Gary Ransdell’s leadership and alumni support.

“Not every university gets that support,” Hiles said.

Western also had the benefit of being at the end of its campaign last year, Hiles said. Good investment returns and money received through the state’s Bucks for Brains program also contributed to Western’s success.

Several universities are not getting the rate of return on their endowment investments needed for spending, said Damon Manetta, manager of external affairs at NACUBO.

When a certain return rate isn’t reached, universities have to spend parts of the initial endowment or returns from prior investments, he said.

But most schools make up for the return losses later.

“In the long term, I think they are keeping pace with the types of returns they need to make,” Manetta said.

NACUBO reported that universities have experienced a decline in their endowment’s investment earning potential. The average investment return rate was 3 percent. The decline was reported by NACUBO as being caused by 2.2 percent inflation rates and a 5.4 percent endowment withdrawal rate.

“Interest earned from endowment investments is a critical source of funds for both independent and public institutions,” said NACUBO President James Morley Jr. in a press release.

“The current climate of rising expenses incurred by institutions at the same time revenue sources, such as public funds, are decreasing makes endowment income an increasingly vital element of funding many college and university programs.”

Western reported a total endowment of $56.4 million to NACUBO last year. But the endowment has since increased to $67.4 million.

The total endowment has increased 61 percent since 2001.

Besides leading the state, Western’s endowment growth has also ranked high among other universities in the country for the past three years, Hiles said.

It will be tough for Western to maintain its No. 1 rank in the state while it is between campaigns, Hiles said. But he remains optimistic.

“In the long term I feel very confident that we will continue to have steady growth,” he said.

Reach Shawntaye Hopkins at [email protected]