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KU Endowment's investments fared a bit worse than national average in last fiscal year

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KU's endowment wasn't alone in having a less-than-great return on investment during the most recent fiscal year, judging from a survey released last week. Its investment returns were a bit worse than the average for North American colleges and universities, though.

The average return on investment for endowments during the 2012 fiscal year — roughly the 2011-12 academic year, running from July 2011 to June 2012 — was negative 0.3 percent, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports from an annual survey of North American institutions. It's a bit unusual for investments to remain that flat, the story says. Usually endowments experience a lot of peaks and valleys.

The KU Endowment's investments declined by about 3.4 percent during that time, the Endowment Association reported in October.

That decline, in addition to record spending of $119 million and some other factors, caused the total value of KUEA's endowed funds to fall from about $1.25 billion in June 2011 to around $1.18 billion in June 2012. That's a 5.4 percent decline.

Those funds placed KUEA 59th among North American endowments as of June 2012, right between the University of Nebraska ($1.21 billion) and Texas Christian University ($1.18 billion). (A sortable table of all endowments is here.)

Other notables on the list:

• The University of Missouri system's endowment gained 4.7 percent in value, bringing it up to $1.17 billion — No. 63.

• The Kansas State University Foundation's value declined by 2.4 percent, falling to $329 million. That ranked 200th. Other Regents university endowments: Wichita State, $199 million, No. 268; Emporia State, $67 million, No. 494; Pittsburg State, $57 million, No. 536; Fort Hays State, $50 million, No. 565.

• The University of Texas system's endowment dwarfs those of all other public universities: Its value rose 6.5 percent to $18.3 billion, third on the list.

• And this is just crazy: Harvard University's behemoth of an endowment fell in value by an amount greater than the entire KU Endowment: $1.29 billion. But that was just 4.1 percent of its 2011 value, and its $30.4 billion in funds was still $11 billion more than second-place Yale.

Finally, this year-by-year graph shows that KU's endowment has followed roughly the same value trends as Harvard, Yale and other big dogs over the past six years — just on a much smaller scale.

Of course, all these numbers are from more than six months ago. Back in October, KUEA president Dale Seuferling said the endowment's investments had bounced back since the end of June 2012.

Here at Heard on the Hill, the value of our endowed funds stayed steady at $0 billion during the 2012 fiscal year. I guess you could donate to change that, if you want, but we'd really rather you just send your KU news tips to merickson@ljworld.com.

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