For Ivy League, Performance and Size Go Together

The year’s top four performing Ivy League endowments also happened to be the schools with the largest funds. Collectively the funds did well, with most endowments coming close to regaining most of the assets they lost during the financial crisis.

The fastest growing Ivy League endowment belonged to Columbia University, whose $7.8 billion fund surged 23.6 percent in the year ending June 30. Columbia, which has a 25 percent allocation to private equity, has had a very respectable average annual return of 9.9 percent over the last decade.

Yale University and Princeton University tied for second place, with each of their funds returning 21.9 percent. Yale, which has the nation’s second largest endowment with assets of $19.4 billion, is led by legendary portfolio manager David Swensen, who pioneered investments into non-traditional areas like forests and, lately, wind farms. Yale’s fund, which has 34 percent of its assets in private equity, saw those assets increase 30.3 percent in value during the year ending June 30. Over the last decade, Yale has achieved an average annual rate of return of 10.1 percent.

Princeton, meanwhile saw its assets rise to $17.1 billion. The university has the distinction of having the nation’s largest ratio of endowment assets per student. Its average annual return during the last 10 years is 9.8 percent.

Harvard University, which has the world’s largest university endowment with $32 billion in assets, finished fourth among its Ivy League rivals, returning 21.4 percent for the year. Harvard, which has a 12 percent allocation to private equity, saw those assets return 26.2 percent for the year. Aiming to boost liquidity, the fund’s chief executive, Jane Mendillo, has been moving to reduce exposure to private equity and other illiquid assets, like real estate. Harvard produced an average annual return of 9.4 percent over the last decade.

The bottom four performing endowments in the Ivy League also happened to be the smallest ones. The endowment with the fifth best returns was Cornell University, whose $5.4 billion endowment returned 19.9 percent in the year ending June 30. Cornell, whose private equity assets accounted for 19.5 percent of its portfolio, saw those assets return 27.8 percent. The number six school was the University of Pennsylvania, whose $6.6 billion endowment returned 18.6 percent.

At number seven, Brown University‘s $2.5 billion endowment returned 18.5 percent for the year. Over the last decade, its endowment has returned a 7.7 percent average annual return.

Finally, the worst performing Ivy League endowment was Dartmouth College, whose $3.4 billion fund returned 18.4 percent for the year. The school has had a 7 percent annual return over the past decade.