Last year's market gains at the Kansas University Endowment Association outpaced the national average, according to a report released Thursday.
Endowment funds at colleges, universities and other educational institutions earned an average 14.7 percent in the 12 months ending June 30, 2004, according to the research arm of Commonfund, which helps manage money for 1,600 nonprofit institutions and foundations.
The KU Endowment Association's long-term investments earned 20.3 percent during the same period, according to its annual report.
"On the whole, we're pretty much on par with other institutions," said John Scarffe, an Endowment Association spokesman.
The report, based on surveys from 707 colleges, independent schools and private education foundations, was further indication that the economic slowdown that hammered college endowment funds in recent years has turned around.
"The significantly improved returns seen this year build upon the successes of last year, which pulled educational endowment returns back into the black," said John Griswold, executive director of the Commonfund Institute.
The average 14.7 percent increase on endowments compared favorably over investment gains of 3.1 percent in 2003 and losses in the two years prior to that. The downturn had forced some private universities to make cuts, and hampered the ability of many public schools to weather reductions in state support.
At the KU Endowment Association, endowed funds eroded to the point that the association had to recalculate the way it distributed money from the funds beginning in 2003, resulting in decreased spending. Also, the association had to restrict severely payouts from certain funds that had dropped below their original principle amount.
The best-performing endowments were more heavily concentrated in investments such as private equity, real estate and energy, the survey found. Scarffe, too, attributed the KU Endowment Association's larger gains to its reliance in private equity investments.
The institutions surveyed said they don't expect to do as well in fiscal 2005, predicting investment gains of 7.9 percent.
Scarffe declined to predict how the KU Endowment Association's funds would fare. "It's too early to tell for '05," he said.