Many of the largest college and university endowments are reporting returns in the low double digits for their fiscal year ended June 30, easily outperforming their year-earlier performance.
“The performance numbers so far have been pretty consistent,” said Mark Brubaker, a Pittsburgh-based managing director of Wilshire Associates.
Among the large endowments that reported for the fiscal year ended June 30: the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, had a 14.4% return and assets of $7.7 billion; Duke University, Durham, N.C., 13.5% and $6 billion; and the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, 13.4% and $5.96 billion, which encompasses the endowment, university-related foundations and university long-term operating reserves.
Also, Yale University, New Haven, Conn., had a return of 12.5% and assets of $20.8 billion; Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif., 12.1% and $18.7 billion; Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., 11.3% and $32.7 billion; and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, 11.1% and $10.86 billion.
Most had returns in the low- to mid-single digits for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2012; Harvard's endowment had a -0.05% return.
Officials at the endowments either declined to discuss their returns or didn't respond to requests for comment.
Returns for the largest endowments are similar to a broader universe of returns as measured by the Wilshire Trust Universe Comparison Service. TUCS reported that the median investment returns for 17 endowments, each with assets of $500 million or more, was 12.39% for the 12 months ended June 30.
“The best performers have been the very big endowments and the very small endowments,” said Christopher Adkerson, a St. Louis-based principal for the endowment consulting firm Mercer Hammond.
The biggest endowments have benefited from “the maturity of their private equity investments,” and the smaller endowments — those with less than $100 million — have done well because of their relatively high exposure to equities during a rising stock market, Mr. Adkerson said.
Endowments between $100 million and $500 million may be experiencing “a delay in returns” as they try to emulate the larger endowments with higher allocations to private equity and other alternatives, he said.
In a preliminary analysis of 56 endowments, each with more than $1 billion in assets, Cambridge Associates found the median return was 11.6% for the fiscal year ended June 30, compared to 0.9% a year earlier.