GW’s endowment increased by nearly 16 percent to almost $734 million last fiscal year, making it the 71st largest in the nation.
According to a study released last week by the National Association of College and University Business officers that surveyed 741 schools, GW followed the trend of an average nationwide endowment increase of 15 percent between June 2003 and June 2004. GW’s endowment increased by only 2.1 percent between 2002 and 2003, when it was valued at $634 million.
In addition, 47 colleges now have endowments upwards of $1 billion, up from 39 two years ago.
Louis Katz, GW’s executive vice president and treasurer, said he was happy with the findings but added that GW has yet to reach its financial objectives.
“Our goal is to be clearly normative” to similarly sized schools, he said. Last month, GW’s endowment was measured at $773 million.
Endowment is money given to a university from individual donors, businesses, countries and grant organizations. It is invested in financial markets. Every year, the University uses a small part of its endowment for purchases.
The endowment increased mainly because of improvements in financial markets, Katz said. Alumni contributions is an area in which GW is lagging behind its competitors, Katz said, because many alumni who took classes in Foggy Bottom 30 years ago do not feel the same connection to GW that more recent graduates do.
“We didn’t have the sense of community then that we have now,” Katz said. “In 10 or 20 years, whoever is sitting in my chair should not have to make these excuses.”
University officials have indicated that they may soon embark on another major fundraising campaign. The last such effort, which began in 1996 and ended two years ago, raised $550 million.
One factor affecting GW’s ability to raise money was the absence of a vice president for Advancement since March. On Friday, GW officials announced that they hired Laurel Price Jones to fill the vacancy. Jones formerly worked for the Rochester Institute of Technology, where she upped annual contributions from $15 million to $44 million. In 2003, GW’s advancement office raised about $57 million.
“Laurel brings the tenacity and know-how to leverage GW’s reputation, alumni, and academic excellence to enhance our endowment, increase annual giving, and secure more foundation grants,” President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said in a written statement.
GW officials have often cited an endowment lag as a reason for yearly tuition increases. Although the University’s endowment increased by more than $100 million over the last year, rising juniors and seniors will still see their tuition rise, Katz said. Rising sophomores and next year’s incoming class pay fixed tuitions.
GW’s endowment per student – worked out to $39,000 per student – is still paltry compared to the resources of other institutions such as Princeton University, with an endowment of $1.5 million per student.
“They don’t even have to charge tuition,” Katz quipped. The Board of Trustees will sign off on a tuition increase plan at its Feb. 11 meeting.
Of schools with endowments of at least $500 million, GW’s 15.7 percent increase was below the 17.9 percent average.
For the second year in a row, Harvard University topped the list with an endowment of $22.1 billion, a gain of 17.5 percent. Yale University and the University of Texas system finished second and third, with more than $12 billion and $10 billion, respectively.
-Michael Barnett contributed to this report.