Aggregate assets of 831 U.S. educational endowments declined by a slight 0.49% in the fiscal year ended June 30 to $406.1 billion compared to $408.1 billion the prior fiscal year, according to 2012 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments released Friday.
Harvard University maintained its perennial position as the largest U.S. endowment fund in 2012 with $30.4 billion, followed by its constant companions at the top of the charts, Yale University with $19.3 billion and University of Texas System with $18.3 billion, all as of June 30.
Bucking recent history, however, assets of both Cambridge, Mass.-based Harvard and New Haven, Conn.-based Yale, declined in the year ended June 30.
Harvard's assets dropped 4.1% in the fiscal year ended June 30 and Yale's endowment assets were down a very slight 0.1%. The 2012 declines are in sharp contrast to the 15.1% pop in Harvard's assets and the 16.3% growth for Yale in the prior fiscal year ended June 30, 2011.
With asset growth of 6.5% in the fiscal year, University of Texas System, Austin, on the other hand, was among only nine of the 25 largest endowments in NACUBO-Commonfund's 2012 universe that experienced asset gains in the fiscal year ended June 30, with growth of 6.5%.
Texas A&M University System & Foundation, College Station, for example, experienced the highest growth of the 25 largest endowments — 9.1% — in the year ended June 30 to $7.6 billion, followed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, which ended with $10.1 billion of endowments, up 3.2% from the prior year.
Among the 25 biggest endowments in the NACUBO-Commonfund study, only University of California, Oakland, experienced a larger decline in assets — down 6% to $5.962 billion — than Harvard in the year ended June 30.
Although the NACUBO-Commonfund study has a 94% repeat participation rate, in 2011, a smaller and slightly different universe of 823 institutions responded to the survey, said William F. Jarvis, managing director of the Commonfund Institute, the research and education arm of money manager Commonfund, Wilton, Conn., in an e-mail.
The recalculation of the aggregate assets of the 779 endowments that participated in both the 2012 and 2011 surveys was $402.7 billion in 2012 and $404.7 billion for 2011, a decline of 0.49% for the 12 months ended June 30, Mr. Jarvis wrote.
Investment performance was the primary reason for the decline in assets of many of the endowments surveyed jointly by the National Association of College and University Business Officers, Washington, a professional association, and the Commonfund Institute.
The average return of the full universe was -0.3% for the fiscal year ended June 30, compared to 19.2% for fiscal year 2011. The average returns of the whole NCSE survey group for June 30 fiscal year-ends in 2010 and 2009 were -18.7% and -3%, respectively.
Split by size, the survey showed average fiscal year-end June 30 returns of endowments as: