Higher education endowments returned an average -13.4% net of fees in the first quarter of 2020, according to a special survey by NACUBO and TIAA looking at the implications of COVID-19.
A similar NACUBO spot survey taken after the Great Recession reported average endowment returns of -22.5%.
"These are uncertain times," said Elizabeth Clark, NACUBO's vice president for policy and research, in an interview. "NACUBO recognized that we were in a period of deep decline and wanted to understand how it affects their investments and their stewardship decisions."
The average endowment size among the 333 schools participating in the COVID-19 follow-up survey was $547.4 million, compared to the $630.5 million average size in the regular 2019 NACUBO-TIAA Study of Endowments. All the endowments experienced losses in the first quarter, with smaller endowments reporting losses larger than endowments with at least $100 million. Endowments over $1 billion reported -11.4% returns, while those with $500 million to $1 billion returned -12.3%, and those between $250 million and $500 million returned -12.4%.