Brown U. endowment slides below $3B in tough year for local colleges

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Brown University still has by far the largest endowment fund among colleges in Southern New England, as every local institution saw the value of its endowment decline last year, according to newly released data.

Brown’s endowment totaled $2.96 billion as of June 30, down from $3.07 billion a year earlier, the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) reports. The endowment is expected to contribute $124 million to Brown’s billion-dollar annual budget next school year.

Brown’s endowment ranked 31st-largest in the country for 2016, but also smallest in the eight-member Ivy League; Harvard University’s endowment, the biggest of all, totaled $34.5 billion.

The next-largest endowment among local four-year schools belonged to the Rhode Island School of Design, which reported $303 million as of June 30, down from $325 million a year earlier. Johnson & Wales reported the largest drop in its endowment of the group, a decline of 9% to $239 million.

NACUBO reported that Rhode Island College’s endowment, the smallest of the group, grew 21% to $25.7 million as of June 30. However, a RIC spokeswoman said the numbers were misleading because the 2015 figure did not include the unrestricted portion of the fund; with that included, RIC’s endowment actually decreased 3% year over year.

Colleges rely on payouts from their endowments’ long-term investment returns to help support the costs of running their schools. NACUBO President and CEO John Walda said the negative returns for most U.S. schools’ endowments in 2015-16 was a “cause for concern.”

“Continued below-average investment returns will undoubtedly make it much more difficult for colleges and universities to support their missions in the future,” he said.

Here is the total value of the endowment funds for Southern New England colleges, along with their change in value for the 12 months ended June 30, 2016, and where they ranked among all schools nationwide.

  • Brown University: $2.96 billion ( -3.6%; U.S. rank: #31)
  • Rhode Island School of Design: $303 million ( -6.6%; U.S. rank: #238)
  • Johnson & Wales University: $239 million ( -9.4%; U.S. rank: #272)
  • Providence College: $199 million ( -4.8%; U.S. rank: n/a)
  • Wheaton College: $185 million ( -5.1%; U.S. rank: #315)
  • Stonehill College: $179 million ( -4.2%; U.S. rank: #324)
  • Bryant University: $159 million ( -6.8%; U.S. rank: #351)
  • University of Rhode Island: $125 million ( -5.3%; U.S. rank: #401)
  • Roger Williams University: $79 million ( -8.2%; U.S. rank: #507)
  • Salve Regina University: $54 million ( -5.4%; U.S. rank: #590)
  • Rhode Island College: $26 million ( -3.0%; U.S. rank: #721)

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

This article has been updated and expanded. In addition, an earlier version described the percentage change in the colleges’ endowment funds as their investment returns; the percentage also includes new contributions.