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University endowment rises to record $8.6 billion after 'economic headwinds'

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Board of Trustees learned at its first annual meeting that Duke’s endowment has hit another record high valuation. 

The endowment saw a 6.9% annual return and is now valued at a record-high of $8.6 billion, as of June 30, 2019. This growth comes a year after the endowment posted a 12.9% return in 2018 to grow from $7.9 billion to $8.5 billion. 

In the last fiscal year, Duke spent $647 million from the endowment on financial aid, faculty salaries, facilities, athletics and other services. Duke’s endowment contributes to the University’s operating budget. 

Fiscal year 2019 was a rough year for university endowments across the country, the Wall Street Journal reported. Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania both saw 6.5% growth, and Dartmouth College posted a 7.5% annual return, despite the S&P 500 returning over 10% on the year. 

“I think that it reflects what’s going on in the economy over the last two or three years,” said Jack Bovender, chair of the Board of Trustees, after the closed-door meeting. “Are we satisfied at 8.6 billion? The answer is no. We need to grow it.”

President Vincent Price applauded Duke Management Company’s efforts in maintaining growth in the face of worrying economic signs. DUMAC has delivered a 10.4% average annual return for the past 10 years.

“They’re facing, as all endowment managers are facing, some economic headwinds,” he said.

Bovender noted the University is starting to think about a future capital campaign that will concentrate on Duke’s high priority needs, such as increased financial aid and improvement in STEM fields. It is still in the early planning stages, and its exact goals have yet to be defined, Bovender explained. 

Price added that Duke’s current focus is on maintaining the philanthropy levels from the Duke Forward campaign, a large-scale capital campaign that ended in July 2017, while it sets the foundation for another capital campaign down the road. Duke Forward raised more than $3.85 billion from 2010 to 2017.

More details about the first Board meeting will be available in an additional story later this afternoon.

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