In other words, colleges are in the same financial predicament as most of their students.
These preliminary findings come from Commonfund Institute and the National Association of College and University Business Officers, purveyors of a definitive annual survey of college endowments.
“What stands out in these preliminary figures is the fact that, despite the positive returns of this year and last, endowments still have not completely recovered from the damage inflicted by the market declines that accompanied the 2008-09 credit crisis,” the agencies said in a joint statement.
The average college endowment is worth 86 percent of its value in 2007, before the downturn.
“It will take several more years of positive returns for endowments to recover fully from the crisis,” the groups said.
The findings are based on a survey of 284 institutions. A more detailed analysis will come in January.
Harvard, the wealthiest school, saw its endowment gain $4.4 billion to $32 billion in the fiscal year that ended in June. That’s still below its historic peak of $37 billion at the end of fiscal 2008.
Yale, the second-wealthiest institution, saw its endowment rise 22 percent to $19 billion, a mere $4 billion shy of its $23 billion peak.
The University of Virginia, a public institution that has effectively privatized itself in the face of falling state revenue, is notable as one of the first well-endowed institutions to recover completely from the downturn. Its endowment ended the fiscal year at $5.3 billion, above the historic peak of $5.1 billion.
Here, from Wikipedia, is a list of a few other university endowments in 2011, and, in parentheses, how they were valued in 2008.
Princeton: $17.1 billion ($16.3 billion)
Stanford: $16.5 billion ($17.2 billion)
MIT: $9.1 billion ($10.1 billion)
Columbia: $7.8 billion ($7.1 billion)
Penn: $6.6 billion ($6.2 billion)