Columbia Endowment Loses 16.1%, Beats Ivy Rivals

BOSTON (Reuters) – Columbia University said on Friday that its endowment lost 16.1 percent in its last fiscal year, far less than its Ivy League rivals Harvard and Yale.

The New York City-based school’s endowment shrank to $5.7 billion on June 30, 2009, from $7.2 billion a year earlier.

Like other prominent universities’ endowments, Columbia’s was battered during the global financial crisis.

But its investment managers performed better than most big endowments, which reported a median loss of 18 percent. They performed far better than America’s two richest schools, Harvard and Yale, which lost roughly 30 percent each.

“The investment performance of our endowment’s managed asset portfolio for the year ending June 30, 2009, was negative 16.1 percent, which reflects the normal quarter lag in private equity and real assets,” Columbia spokesman Robert Hornsby said.

A handful of America’s Ivy League schools reported their investment returns this week. The schools all rely heavily on their endowments to help pay salaries and give financial aid to students, and many appeal to wealthy alumni for annual donations.

For years, Harvard and Yale, in particular, have been admired in the investment world for generating strong investment returns by relying on riskier alternative asset classes.

In the last fiscal year, those bets proved problematic, leaving schools that had stuck with more traditional investment routes better off, industry analysts said.

Harvard, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said its endowment contracted 27.3 percent to $26 billion while New Haven, Connecticut-based Yale reported a 30 percent drop to $16 billion. The University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, lost only 15.7 percent after it put more of its assets into fixed income securities. (Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Gary Hill)