Tag Archives: hbcu endowments

The Endowment Edge: A Conversation With Virginia State University’s Mr. Kevin Davenport


HBCU Money’s editor-in-chief, William A. Foster, IV, sits down with the VP of Finance at Virginia State University located in Petersburg, Virginia. Some of the highlights were how HBCUs can close the wealth gap between HBCU and PWI/HWCU endowments, HBCU financial transparency, and more as Mr. Davenport helps lead VSU’s financial health into the second half of the decade with a continued eye on the generations ahead.

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Mr. Davenport, thank you for taking the time with us. Let us start with telling us a bit about yourself and how you came into your current position? I have worked in higher education finance for over 25 years. I’ve served in a leadership capacity at both public and private institutions and at institutions as large as 35,000 students and as small as 1,000 students. I have a broad finance background which includes hands-on experience with cash management, endowments, investments, budgets, financial statements, audits and financial analysis.

I have served both HBCUs and PWI/HWCUs. I have been Chief Fiscal Officer (CFO) at three HBCUs in Virginia—Virginia Union University, Virginia State University and Saint Paul’s College. I have also served as Treasurer at a PWI/HWCU in Virginia—Virginia Commonwealth University and several of its related foundations (VCU). At VCU, I managed a university working capital pool of about $350 million and oversaw the financing of over $600 million in capital projects. I also serve on the City of Richmond Retirement System Board and Advisory Committee, which oversees approximately $500 million in retirement funds.

I’m a graduate of an HBCU— Hampton University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting. I am also a Certified Public Accountant and have earned an MBA from the College of William and Mary and an Ed.S from George Washington University.

Virginia State University and its foundation combined have one of the largest endowments among HBCUs. For those who are unclear about the dynamic of there being two separate endowments, can you give us a bit more detail of why they are separate? How does their separation impact each investment strategy? The university has a $46 million endowment. About $32 million (or about 70%) of the endowment is managed by the University and the remaining $14 million (or 30%) is managed by a related foundation. Like most public universities, VSU established a foundation to allow greater autonomy in managing assets like endowment funds. After the foundation was established, some donors wanted their contributions to continue to be deposited to the University. Since then, the University continues to give its donors and alumni the option of donating to the university or the foundation.

Each endowment is governed by its own investment policy, spending rate and asset allocation targets. The endowments are managed separately, but their investment philosophy and strategies are similar. Both endowments are well diversified portfolios and conservatively invested to protect against a downturn in the market.

There seems to be concern among HBCU alumni who do not think the endowments of HBCUs are transparent enough and therefore create hesitancy to give. What can be done by HBCUs to allow for their alumni base to feel like there is a clear understanding of how their donations are being invested, allocated, and reinvested? I think HBCUs must ensure the highest level of transparency and accountability to its alumni and donors who establish endowment funds. Alumni and donors should receive a report each year detailing the activity in their individual endowment funds. This report should include total dollars for contributions, earnings, distributions and fees made to and from the endowment.

Most universities charge an internal administrative fee to cover costs for administering the endowment. HBCUs need to ensure these administrative fees are fully disclosed to donors and alumni. Sufficient detail should be provided on how the fees are calculated, how the fees are collected, and what the fees are being used for. Governing bodies need to make sure they review and approve all fees periodically.

It is also a good best practice to have donors and alumni sign an endowment agreement at the time the endowment is established. This agreement should provide donors with a clear understanding of how donations are being invested, allocated and reinvested.

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The endowment gap between PWI/HWCUs and HBCUs has grown from 46:1 in 1993 to 106:1 today. What do you think are some ways that gap can start to be closed, especially with HBCUs facing mounting financial pressure? Is there anything Virginia State University is doing in particular? HBCUs can provide greater emphasis on endowment growth. This is a challenge, especially as many HBCUs face more immediate and pressing needs. But administrators have to fight to make it a priority. VSU is aggressive in reaching out to our alumni and donors about the benefits of endowment giving. Our fundraisers include it in their fundraising literature and make it a priority in soliciting funds from alumni and donors.

HBCUs can also work with their governing boards to establish prudent investment and spending policies. A solid investment strategy can help HBCUs earn more on their endowments, thus grow their endowments to help close the gap.

 Over the summer, a ground swell occurred that has spurred many African Americans to move their banking relationships to African American owned banks and credit unions. Very few HBCUs have banking relationships with African American owned banks, while we know you can not speak for other HBCUs, can you explain Virginia State University’s current relationship with any African American owned banks if any? And what does it say that there is not more husbandry between HBCUs and African American owned banks? VSU does not have any formal relationships with African American owned banks or credit unions. There is a nearby credit union that bears the name “Virginia State University Credit Union”, but the entity has no legal association with the University.

In terms of investment strategy, does Virginia State University primarily internally manage its endowments; use external managers, or a mixture of both? The University engages professional investment advisors and managers to help it oversee its endowment funds. The investment advisors and managers have discretion to invest the funds according to a board-approved investment policy. The investment policy allows the endowment funds to be invested in a diversified investment pool which includes domestic and international equities, fixed income, hedge funds, real estate, and private equity.

The current macro environment in the United States of the zero interest rate policy by the Federal Reserve for the past decade has changed the way many individual and institutional investors set strategy. How do you think it has impacted smaller endowments like HBCUs versus the Big 30 college endowments? Because of the current low interest environment, institutional investors have had to go elsewhere to make money. Institutional investors at the Big 30 college endowments have increased their allocations to non-traditional and riskier asset classes such as private equities, international equities, hedge funds and real estate. Smaller endowments, like at HBCUs, have a harder time accessing these non-traditional asset classes. Further, the Big 30 endowments have been able to hire high-paid Chief Investment Officers (CIO) and specialized investment professionals to help them earn greater returns. Smaller endowments are not able to pay CIOs and their staffs. As such, the smaller endowments continue to lag the investment performance of the Big 30 endowments thus continuing to increase the performance gap.

In following up on that last point, given that 30 colleges & universities control 52% of America’s $500 billion college endowments and 100 times all HBCU endowments combined, what are your thoughts on a policy that would redistribute some of PWI/HWCUs endowments to HBCU coffers or incentivize large donors to give to smaller endowments? I like the idea of incentivizing donors to give more to smaller endowments. Perhaps, donors can receive a greater tax break when donating to smaller endowments like the ones at HBCUs.

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Student loan debt seems to have direct correlations to college endowments, regardless of the school’s cost. We noted in our last report that despite being cheaper, HBCU graduates are finishing with an average of $30,344 in student loan debt versus the top 50 college endowments who finish with $22,020. Coupled with African America’s wealth being sixteen times less than their counterparts this makes student loan debt a compounding issue for wealth building. Is there a more active role HBCUs can take in helping close the wealth gap in the coming decades for African American families? I think the major driver for greater student debt at HBCUs stems from family wealth. According to a recent study done by the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia, the average family income of a student at the public HBCUs in Virginia is about $30,000 per year as compared to an average of about $60,000 per year for the other public universities. In fact, the average family income for some of the largest Virginia universities was over $100,000 per year. Additionally, over 85% of VSU’s undergraduates receive need-based financial assistance which is much larger than PWI/HWCUs. HBCU students struggle to pay the costs so HBCUs must keep their cost of attendance low compared to other PWI/HWCUs. A larger endowment would certainly help HBCUs fill their student’s need and thus reduce their debt burden.

For those interested in one day becoming the head of a university endowment what advice would you give them? If you are interested in heading a university endowment, my advice is to understand that your responsibilities go much further than merely overseeing institutional investments. At a college or university, you would be required to regularly communicate to a broad range of constituents such as donors, alumni, students, faculty, governing boards and administrators.

Thank you for your time; in parting do you have anything you would like to add? No.

Abandoned By (Black) America: HBCU Endowments Less Than One Percent of American College Fortunes


A great nation cannot abandon its responsibilities. Responsibilities abandoned today return as more acute crises tomorrow. – Gerald Ford

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There are two houses and two families, we will call them the Smiths and Jacksons for the sake of this story, who are living next door to each other in a neighborhood. The Smith family in one household are preparing for a feast as it seems they do every night. Meanwhile, the Jackson family prepares their own feast, but just as they do every night at dinner they pack all their food up and walk next door to their neighbors home and knock on the door. The Smiths open the door as always with a smile and greet their neighbors and take the food they fixed and promptly slam the door in the Jacksons face. They add the food to their already illustrious feast without as much a second thought that they have more food than they need and that the Jacksons once again gave them all of their dinner. The Jackson family stands by an open window where they can smell the feast that they and the Smiths cooked as it sits on the Smiths’ table. Yet, they are offered nothing but the aroma.

Eventually, the Jacksons return to their home starving and as every night goes, one of the children ask the parents, “Why do we give them our food when we have a table here to eat our food on?” At which time the parents always reply, “Because our food taste better on their table,” to their children who eventually will feed their malnourished and lean bodies with the bread and water they always receive after this affair. The children confused by this statement from their parents further inquire how do they know it taste better on the Smiths table. Their parents tell them of a time when they were allowed to sit at the Smiths’ back door and have a taste of the food and it definitely tasted better. The Jackson parents insisted it had to be because of the Smiths’ beautiful table, even though the food came from their kitchen. Then the children as they always do plead with their parents to allow them to keep the dinner tomorrow so that they can grow to be big and strong and one day they will be able to build all the fine things their parents see in the Smiths’ window. However, the parents tell them that when the Smiths cut wood for their home they cut it better than they did, that when they build furniture they build it finer because they have better tools, and when they serve drinks their drinks taste better because of course, their ice is colder. So the Jacksons continue to resound to every night giving their dinner away in hopes of one day being allowed to eat their own food at another’s table. And so has been the relationship to African America and its own institutions.

Over the past 60 years, African America has, save for the black church, been on an expedited exodus from supporting, building, and controlling its own institutions for the colder ice of their neighbors in the hopes that they would one day be allowed to sit at their neighbors’ table. This despite during the post-antebellum period up until World War II when African America started, controlled, owned, and supported institutions of commerce, education, politics, health, and more all within their own municipalities. Five hundred hospitals at one point, one hundred boarding schools, thousands of businesses, and yes over one hundred what we know today as Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Now, that first seventy some years of blacksmithmanship that built these institutions after the Civil War has been replaced by a culture of abandonment over the past sixty years.

In a recent article, Forbes highlights the institutional wealth disparity that exist within United States higher education institutions. A national system that comprises approximately 3,000 colleges and universities across the country have a combined endowment value of $500 billion. Yet, at HBCUs who comprise approximately three percent of the nation’s college and universities have combined endowments of roughly $2.5 billion or 0.5 percent, while 30 colleges/universities with the largest endowments hold $260 billion of the pie or 52 percent. Yes, 30 colleges have more in endowments than 2,970 colleges and universities combined and over 100 times the amount one hundred HBCUs hold in their coffers. HBCU endowments are not even representative of their representation. Who is to blame for such an anemic number? Well, ironically if you ask many African Americans they will lay the blame at the feet of HBCUs and the alumni who attended them for not giving back as they should. The irony of course being that ninety percent of African Americans who attend college today choose to do so at non-HBCUs. At the University of Phoenix, a for-profit college, almost twenty percent of its 213,000 student body is African American. An amount equal to roughly ten percent of the entire HBCU student population. This despite the University of Phoenix’s degrees not being worth the paper they are printed on, but they are not a Black institution so therefore it must be a better education, right? Never mind the percent of African Americans who decide to attend elite PWIs and take their intellectual capital out of the African American ecosystem. We are quite literally using our intellectual capital to build others research and academic prowess and deepening the institutional gap between African America and the rest of America.

The economic cost of abandonment by African American to HBCUs is hard to put an accurate figure on because the $125 that the African American graduate in 1969 did not donate to an HBCU and a bunch of probability factors would require a doctoral thesis and years of research, but an abstract analysis is possible. To note, for every $125 in 1969 that had been invested in the stock market with traditional returns would be worth just under $23,000 today, which in a moment you will see the relevance. Currently, there are approximately 20 million Americans in college, African America comprises 3 million of that population, and 2.7 million of that 3 million attend non-HBCUs. The average annual cost of college in the United States is $22,000 annually, valuing African America’s tuition revenue at $66 billion annually, but $59.4 billion of it is in non-HBCUs. HBCUs as a whole receive only 1.5 percent of America’s total current tuition revenue pie. When it comes philanthropy, numbers are even starker. In 2015, HBCUs received only 4 of the 530 donations (0.7 percent) that were $1 million or more to colleges and universities. Those four donations totaled $7 million, while the the top four to non-HBCUs combined for $950 million. The latter being an amount equal to almost 40 percent of HBCU endowments combined. Yes, in one year, four donations to HWCU/PWIs equalled almost half of what has taken HBCUs over one hundred years to accumulate.

Philanthropy for colleges ultimately boils down to two things. Either have a very large alumni base or produce very wealth alumni who procure their money through high-paying professions or entrepreneurial pursuits. The first sometimes increases the odds of the second, but there are certainly other factors as well. However, the first is the easiest to ensure a larger endowment just based on statistics. Inside Higher Education reported, “The participation rate in 2014 was 8.3 percent, compared to 8.7 percent in 2013. At private liberal arts colleges, which as a group always have higher alumni giving rates, about 20 percent of alumni donate.” That means that overall, out of every 100 students who attend college, eight of them will be active donors. A number that swings widely depending on the engagement of the school’s development office, alumni associations, etc. Or in the current case of the estimated 300 000 students at HBCUs, only 24,000 of them are likely donors. Yet, obviously if instead of only ten percent of African American students attended HBCUs, ninety percent did, then you would have alumni donor pool of 216 000 or nine times greater.

HBCUs must go for numbers because over the past sixty years as we abandoned our institutions (except the church) our wealth also plummeted post World War II. As a result today, African American median wealth according to the Laura Chin via the U.S. Census, “In absolute terms, the median white household had $111,146 in wealth holdings in 2011, compared to $7,113 for the median black household and $8,348 for the median Latino household.” The melancholy of HBCUs primary donor pool suffers the compounding impact of being sixteen times poorer and attracting only 1 out of 10 of the population it was built to serve coupled with only eight percent of the 1 out of 10 giving back. That means in essence over the past thirty years, less than one percent of African Americans who attended college from all colleges will have donated to an HBCU. A somber reality no matter how you look at it. Especially when you are trying to maximize the dollar given to have the most impact on African America.

However, recent events have shown there might be a resurgence in the long-term outlook for HBCU endowments. African American owned banks and credit unions have seen a resurgence as millions in deposits have poured back into their coffers as African America looks to gain more control over their communities. In recent years, HBCUs like Morehouse, Claflin, and Langston University have seen record breaking numbers of freshmen classes. This will only bode well for the future of that eight percent donor pool and the probability of $1 million or more donors as African America is creating more businesses than any other group in America currently, a key to wealth creation. The past 60 years may have been the dark ages for HBCUs and their endowments, but a new golden age maybe on the horizon indeed. It maybe time to set that dinner table after all.

HBCU Money’s 2015 Top 10 HBCU Endowments


 

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The keyword for  2015’s HBCU endowments – concerning. Two bellwether HBCU endowments, Spelman College and Hampton University, saw negative declines in their endowment’s market value. Outside of Howard University storming ahead at 11.7 percent, no other HBCU endowment saw double digit gains with North Carolina A&T State University missing the mark by 10 basis points. This is a far cry from 2014’s list when 9 out of 10 reported double digit gains. If there is any solace in the numbers and there is not much, it is that the top ten endowments of our HWCU counterparts had no endowments return double digit gains and also saw 2 out of their 10 with declines in market value.

Although there are some notable absences** from our top ten list, it certainly would not change the reality that still only three HBCUs have endowments above the $200 million mark and none have reached the $1 billion plateau, although Howard University, despite its noted financial issues seems to be headed there unabated and without much competition from Spelman College or Hampton University, the only real challengers. John Wilson, president at Morehouse College, in an interview with Harvard Magazine in 2013 noted, “is the need to build endowments; less than $200 million makes you, by definition, unhealthy.” This still remains the case and as a baseline means that 97 percent of all HBCUs are financially unhealthy. Even more concerning is that there seems to be no real plan in place to address this. A canary in the coal mine though is that donations of $1 million or more to HBCUs jumped from one in 2013 to nine in 2014, but donations of the eight and nine figure variety, also known as transformative donations, are still absent at HBCUs.

As always if you do not see your HBCU in the top 10 – DONATE!**

Endowment in millions $000 (Change in Market Value*)

1. Howard University – $659 639 (11.7%)

2. Spelman College – $362 986 (-1.1%)

3. Hampton University – $263 237 (-8.7%)

4. Meharry Medical College – $139 054 (1.5%)

5. Tennessee State University – $51 416 (1.8%)

6. Texas Southern University – $48 684 (4.5%)

7. Virginia State University – $47 432 (4.9%)

8. North Carolina A&T State University – $48 100 (9.9%)

9. Winston-Salem State University – $37 219 (8.5%)

10. University of the Virgin Islands – $34 274 (-9.0%)

Take a look at how an endowment works. Not only scholarships to reduce the student debt burden but research, recruiting talented faculty & students, faculty salaries, and a host of other things can be paid for through a strong endowment. It ultimately is the lifeblood of a college or university to ensure its success generation after generation.

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*Note: The change in market value does NOT represent the rate of return for the institution’s investments. Rather, the change in the market value of an endowment from FY2013 to FY2014 reflects the net impact of: 1) withdrawals to fund institutional operations and capital expenses; 2) the payment of endowment management and investment fees; 3) additions from donor gifts and other contributions; and 4) investment gains or losses.

** Notable exclusions to the list that HBCU Money believes would otherwise make the top ten are Morehouse College, Tuskegee University, Dillard University, and Florida A&M University. Morehouse College, Tuskegee University, and Dillard University have never reported their endowment to NACUBO in the time HBCU Money has been recording its annual top ten endowments. Florida A&M University who was number five last year did not appear in this year’s list from NACUBO.

Additional Notes:
NACUBO Average Endowment – $648 074 (1.7%)
NACUBO Median Endowment – $115 828 (-0.9%)
Top 10 HWCU Endowments combined – $185.4 billion
Source: National Association of College & University Business Officers

The Endowment Edge: A Conversation With The University Of Virgin Islands’ Dr. Haldane Davies


HBCU Money’s editor-in-chief, William A. Foster, IV, sits down with the Foundation of the University of Virgin Islands’ executive director Dr. Haldane Davies. They discuss the importance of HBCU endowments, UVI’s phenomenal leap into the HBCU Money’s 2014 top ten HBCU endowments list, and Dr. Davies take on the economy’s impact on college endowments.

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Dr. Davies, thank you for taking the time with us. Let us start with telling us a bit about yourself and how you came into your current position? Thank you, Bill. I am certainly honored to have the opportunity to speak with you today and to share with your audience what the Foundation for the University of the Virgin Islands and indeed the University of the Virgin Islands has been doing over the last fifty three years of its existence. My name is Haldane Davies and I am from the Virgin Islands. I hold a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Educational Administration with a focus on higher education from Andrews University and have been at the University of the Virgin Islands for the past eight years. In addition to my current position of Vice President for Business Development and Innovation, I also serve as the Executive Director of the Foundation for the University of the Virgin Islands – a 501 (c) 3 organization, a position that I have held for the past four years.

Many HBCUers do not understand the way an endowment operates. Tell our audience more about the process. When a donation to the University of Virgin Islands is given, how is it invested and how are those decisions made? Great question. As you know, Bill, the process of fundraising is one that occurs over time after periods of relationship building and donor cultivation. Donors contribute to a cause that matches the institution’s value proposition to the donor’s vision and purpose for which they intend the gift to be used. Therefore, when a gift is made to the University or to the Foundation on behalf of the University, that gift is invested in accordance with the donor’s gift agreement and the applicable clauses of the Foundation’s Investment Policy Statement under the guidance of the Finance and Investment Committee and the full Board. The funds are usually distributed across an approved asset allocation planning model with investments in equities, bonds, and other alternative asset classes, with provisions made for hedging by including a mix of other investment options along a continuum of conservative and aggressive distributions of the funds to be invested. The Finance and Investment Committee would be mindful to ensure that great care is taken to maintain an adequate spending ratio in support of the University while making every effort to maintain the goal of achieving intergenerational equity by not spending too much or too little in any given year thereby maintaining the real spending power of the endowment for future generations.

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 The University of Virgin Islands this year cracked our HBCU Money™ top ten HBCU endowments, largely attributed to the university’s impressive 48.5 percent increase in investments. What do you attribute to the endowment’s success over the past twelve months? I must say that we are extremely honored to be among the top ten HBCU endowments in terms of investment asset I would be the first to indicate however, that while the difference between total investment assets from 2013 to 2014 jumped significantly by an impressive 48.5 percent, the actual investment return for the same period was 19.2 percent, which exceeded investment returns among all HBCUs that participated in the NACUBO Commonfund Study of Endowments. This is indeed a great accomplishment of which we are justly proud. We are appreciative of the outstanding work of our investment advisors/managers who exercised prudent judgement and responsible decision making by selecting outstanding investment managers and investment options that yielded the kind of returns that we benefited from last year. It was a good year for the U.S. equity market, in particular. I am also mindful to note the fiduciary oversight of the Finance and Investment Committee and the Board in working closely with our advisors/managers and exercising patience by maintaining a “we are in it for the long haul” attitude toward investing.

The endowment gap between PWI/HWCUs and HBCUs has grown from 46:1 in 1993 to 106:1 today. What do you think are some ways that gap can start to be closed, especially with HBCUs facing mounting financial pressure? Is there anything the University of Virgin Islands is doing in particular? As stated previously, the Foundation for the University of the Virgin Islands has taken a “long haul” approach to investing for optimal gain in support of the mission of the University. The University actively engages in fundraising and maintains a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Foundation for the management of its assets alongside those of the Foundation. There is strength in the collaborative pooling of assets with the true intent and purpose of strategically and meaningfully responding to the needs of the University and the constituencies which it serves. As HBCUs, we also need to actively engage in business development and innovation activities that result in public/private partnerships, contracting services, and leveraging the expertise of faculty, staff and students to create income generating opportunities in collaboration with the institution. At UVI we believe that when we are able to promote a value proposition that is in tandem with the needs of our communities, donors, and supporters we would be better positioned to reverse the trend and begin the process of closing the gap to which you referred. Although budgets are tight and government and other types of mainstream support for HBCUs and other institutions are dwindling, there are opportunities for growth if we would develop innovative ways of advancing our causes through collaborative strategic planning, linking the budget to the plan, identifying the best talent to execute programs and services, conducting rigorous and meaningful assessment, and using results to improve. These may be the “worst of times” but they may also be the “best of times.”

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 In terms of investment strategy, does UVI primarily internally manage its endowment; use external managers, or a mixture of both? UVI through the Foundation primarily uses external managers who are guided by the organization’s Investment Policy Statement, and who have the flexibility within reasonable limits to make timely investment decisions in the overall interest of the Foundation and the University. We vet and monitor our managers well and require regular reports not only on the performance of the funds but also on their investment point of view and scenario projections based on current and historical market data.

The S&P 500 over the past year had returns of 13.4 percent. The benchmark by which we measure endowment return success. This past year only six out of the top ten HBCU endowments outperformed the market, while PWI/HWCU counterparts had nine out of the top ten outperform. What do you attribute this disparity too? That is a very good question and the answer may lie in a number of places. Generally, although size may not always be a determining factor in the level of endowment returns, it certainly plays a significant role especially in keeping with the asset allocation model that may be right for the institution at the time. PWIs generally are much more heavily endowed than HBCUs with higher percentages spread across a wider cross section of illiquid options, thus lessening risk and increasing yield over the long term. Secondly, some endowments are very conservative in their asset allocation models, which may be based on the risk averseness of the Investment Committee. Additionally, we need to do a better job in developing our asset allocation models and using the best managers with track records of stable yet outstanding returns for their clients. We need to study the markets well, increase our knowledge by engaging in professional development activities for our boards, and holding our directors and staff more accountable for the performance of our organizations. Endowments grow and perform well through strategic investment growth and contributions to the funds.

Capital circulation is a big principle we believe in here at HBCU Money. Does UVI have any relationships with African Diaspora owned investment firms or financial institutions in general? If so, was it a conscious decision and why? If not, is there any plan in the future to have a relationship? Although most of our investments are within the US market which includes a mix of investment firms, we certainly participate in private equity investments globally including those in emerging and frontier markets. While I am not at this time prepared to speak in detail on FUVI’s investments, I can say that every effort is made to invest in opportunities and places where our investments stand a very good chance of yielding good returns. We pay close attention to the global economic outlook and point of view and make decisions that would best serve the interest of our organizations – UVI and FUVI. We certainly support investments with African Diaspora investment firms as part of our overall investment strategy.

Many investors seem to believe the Federal Reserve will be raising interest rates this year. What impact will this have on college & university endowments? With every action, there is usually a corresponding reaction, however, our view is long term and we are not unduly alarmed with the current trend of market volatility. Whether the Feds raise interest rates in the summer or the fall, we expect the markets to respond but settle in a favorable place over time. After all, rising interest rates may be viewed as a sign of a strengthening economy. Market corrections are needed from time to time; however, we are not fazed by daily adjustments but rather encouraged by long term performance.

Private equity and hedge funds seems to have had a major role in college and university endowments over the past decade. These are very capital intensive and illiquid investment classes, which seem to make it tougher for HBCUs with smaller capitalized endowments to engage. Is UVI making investments in either of these assets classes? If so, what percentage of the school’s endowment portfolio is in them? If not, do you foresee investments in these classes in the future? We currently have a mix of hedge funds, distressed debt, and private equity investments in our portfolio amounting to about 10 percent of the Foundation’s assets. We are also in the process of adding some core real estate investments (about 5 percent) and making allocation adjustments to help create an optimal balance in liquidity and intergenerational equity. With some limitations, opportunities for smaller endowments to invest in illiquid and alternative strategies such as hedge funds, venture capital and private equity are readily available in the marketplace and offered by advisors/managers who have great expertise and track records in this important diversifying space.

For those interested in one day becoming the head of a university endowment what advice would you give them? Become familiar with endowments and foundations and how they work by attending endowment/investment conferences, workshops and institutes to the extent possible. Speak frequently with your investment managers engaging them in broader board and committee educational meetings focusing on the successful tenets of governance, oversight and endowment management. And examine their investment outlook in tandem with market trends and historical performance. Read, familiarize yourself with the market jargon, be courageous, and engage in strategic and informed decision making.

Thank you for your time; in parting do you have anything you would like to add? HBCUs and their universities and endowments have a very important role to play in providing and supporting educational opportunities for many who may otherwise not have the opportunity to pursue higher education. We are responding to a high calling – a calling that is beyond any of us to touch lives, fulfill dreams, ignite passion, create opportunities, improve the quality of life, advance knowledge, and increase wisdom. HBCU endowments and foundations have the capacity to be wellsprings of creative opportunity and beacons of hope for many in a shaded world. Let us commit to doing our best for humankind today and for generations yet unborn as we help to make this world a better place for all. Thank you so much, Bill for the opportunity to share with your audience. I look forward to talking with you again.

HBCU Money’s 2014 Top 10 HBCU Endowments


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The keyword for  2014’s HBCU endowments – disappointing. In the past twelve months, HBCU’s top ten endowments added $200 million to its coffers. So why is this disappointing? The S&P 500 over the past year had returns of 13.4 percent. The benchmark by which we measure endowment return success. Given many of the tax and capital advantages that college and university endowments have it takes quite a bit of effort to underperform the market. This year only six out of ten HBCU endowments outperformed the market, while HWCU counterparts clocked in at nine out of ten. This has allowed the institutional wealth gap between top 10 HWCU/HBCU endowments to balloon from 103:1 to 106:1 the past twelve months. 

This year was fairly standard with no real changes except one among the top ten, but what a change it was. The University of the Virgin Islands unseats Winston-Salem State University in the ten spot from last year after an unprecedented change in market value of 48.5 percent. A performance that not only led all HBCUs, but was fifth among the 851 American and Canadian endowments reporting. However, there is still real concern about the lack of HBCUs with at least $100 million endowments. Notable absences are Morehouse and Tuskegee who do not report. Even including these two, it would mean only approximately 7 percent of HBCUs are above this mark. This is concerning because even schools with only a $100 million endowment that achieved a market return of 13 percent leaves the school roughly $6.5 million to potentially to work with. Showing that HBCUs are still highly dependent and vulnerable to tuition revenue. A matter we saw continuously pop up after the Parent Plus Loan debacle that sent many HBCUers home. HBCU endowments should have been there to lessen the blow, but again given 93 percent of HBCUs are at $50 million or less it shows the vulnerability most are facing. The MEAC continues its dominance of the top ten HBCU endowments with four institutions present.

As always if you do not see your HBCU in the top 10 – DONATE!

Endowment in millions $000 (Change in Market Value*)

1. Howard University – $586 104 (14.0%)

2. Spelman College – $367 037 (12.2%)

3. Hampton University – $288 370 (13.5%)

4. Meharry Medical College – $136 975 (9.6%)

5. Florida A&M University – $127 186 (10.3%)

6. Tennessee State University – $50 492 (17.5%)

7. Texas Southern University – $46 577 (10.4%)

8. Virginia State University – $45 145 (18.6%)

9. North Carolina A&T State University – $43 785 (17.3%)

10. University of the Virgin Islands – $38 184 (48.5%)

Take a look at how an endowment works. Not only scholarships to reduce the student debt burden but research, recruiting talented faculty & students, faculty salaries, and a host of other things can be paid for through a strong endowment. It ultimately is the lifeblood of a college or university to ensure its success generation after generation.

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*Note: The change in market value does NOT represent the rate of return for the institution’s investments. Rather, the change in the market value of an endowment from FY2013 to FY2014 reflects the net impact of: 1) withdrawals to fund institutional operations and capital expenses; 2) the payment of endowment management and investment fees; 3) additions from donor gifts and other contributions; and 4) investment gains or losses.

Additional Notes:
NACUBO Average Endowment – $616 188 (15.0%)
NACUBO Median Endowment – $112 967 (16.3%)
Top 10 HWCU Endowments combined – $180.3 billion
Top 10 HBCU Endowments combined – $1.7 billion
Source: National Association of College & University Business Officers