GW’s endowment breaks one billion

GW’s endowment has broken the $1 billion mark, the University announced yesterday.

In a statement distributed Wednesday afternoon, GW announced that as of Dec. 31, the endowment stood at about $1.019 billion. When University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg assumed the presidency in 1988, GW had an endowment of about $200 million. Over the last 19 years, the endowment has grown by more than $800 million.

“This is very exciting news,” said University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. “Everyone involved ought to be congratulated, but it needs to be the inspiration to go out and double it.”

Trachtenberg said when he arrived in Foggy Bottom in 1988 he “never dreamt” of the endowment breaking $1 billion.

“It seemed like going over the moon,” he said.

But he stressed that GW cannot stop at $1 billion. Compared to other major universities of similar population, financial status and educational ranking, GW’s endowment is low.

Trachtenberg said Princeton University’s endowment per student is about $200 million while GW’s is at about $75,000 per student.

The University has made a larger push toward increasing the endowment in recent years. Through both more aggressive investment strategies and a greater focus on alumni giving, the endowment has grown by $325 million in the last three years alone.

Trachtenberg said the University relies too heavily on investment strategies to raise endowment money, but added that over the next two to three decades, he expects alumni giving to increase.

“We have been very fortunate to be a genius in our investment policies; there are many institutions that neither raise money through philanthropy nor commerce, and we have done both,” he said. “I think as the years progress, you will see a shifting of that balance.”

“Complacency is our enemy,” Trachtenberg said. “This needs to be an inspiration to go raise another $1 billion as soon as possible.”

Trachtenberg, who will be stepping down as president this summer, said that before he leaves he hopes to have the endowment at $1.2 billion.

As GW’s endowment grows, the University benefits. Annually, the University’s Board of Trustees sets a certain amount of the endowment to be paid out for use within the overall budget. In recent years, the payout has been 5 percent of the sum of the endowment. As the endowment total grows, so does the payout.

Over the last three years, about $110 million has been paid out to the support various University activities, according to the release.

“You can never get to the point where you have enough,” Trachtenberg said. “All of us in higher education are in the pursuit of perfection, and there is never enough financial aid; you are never paying the faculty as much as you want to and you can always find a way to make your library and computer systems that much better.”

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