Determinants Of Endowment Spending Rates At Institutions Of Higher Education
Over the past decade, tuition increased at nearly twice the rate of inflation at colleges and universities across the country. Simultaneously, at elite colleges and universities, endowment values doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled over the same period. Harvard University's endowment was just shy of $9.1 billion at the end of the 1996 fiscal year; by 2008, it was over $36.5 billion. As a result of this trend, institutions of higher education have experienced burgeoning public criticism for "hoarding" their wealth and for failing to spend a greater percentage of their endowments. In January 2008, the United States Senate Finance Committee requested detailed endowment information from the 136 American higher education institutions with endowments greater than $500 million at the end of the fiscal year closing on June 30, 2007. This paper examines the determinants of endowment spending rates and identifies the characteristics of colleges and universities that are associated with spending higher or lower percentages of endowment market values. The analyses include 126 colleges and universities with endowment market values greater than $500 million at the end of the fiscal year closing on June 30, 2007. The results suggest that private institutions, institutions with lower endowment market values, institutions with higher annual giving, institutions with a higher share of expenditures devoted to research, institutions with a higher tuition discount rate, and institutions with more Pell grant recipients spend a greater percentage of endowment market value. The results also suggest that spending policies affect spending rates.
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