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Editorial: Endowment performance deserves recognition

The Herald reported September 30 that the University’s endowment returned 12.4 percent for the fiscal 2019 year, which spanned from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019. The endowment gained an impressive $467 million and increased to a record-high $4.2 billion.

The return rate of the University’s endowment, though slightly lower than last year’s 13.2 percent, is remarkably high given the economic turmoil of the past year. In 2018, the U.S. stock market experienced one of its worst years since the 2008 recession, and in the final months of the year, the market plunged nearly 20 percent. Fragile economic and political relations with countries such as China have left investors nervous about the future and exacerbated wild swings in the market’s performance.

The endowment’s resilience and remarkable return this past year are even more notable in light of the fund’s performance in comparison to peer institutions. The University’s returns this past year were dramatically higher than returns released thus far by Ivy League institutions. Yale reported a return of 5.7 percent, UPenn 6.5 percent, Harvard 6.5 percent and Dartmouth 7.5 percent. Princeton, Cornell and Columbia have yet to report.

In light of these factors, it is particularly assuring to hear about the endowment’s strong performance this past year. We commend the University’s Investment Office and its Chief Executive Officer, Joseph Dowling III, for the impressive administration of University funds.

Because the University has the smallest endowment compared to its Ivy peers, it is doubly important that the Office invest strategically to ensure high returns that can be well-capitalized upon to best benefit Brown. While the fund plays an important role in securing the University’s financial stability in the long term, it also serves as a substantive component of the yearly operating budget. In 2018, the endowment contributed 15 percent of the operating budget before scholarships. Over 50 percent of these funds went toward professorships, scholarships, fellowships and prizes, which are critical factors in ensuring that Brown can cultivate a vibrant and diverse academic environment.

Despite its banner year, there remain important concerns with University’s endowment. Specifically, the University ought to consider increasing transparency over where funds are distributed. Over 30 percent of the endowment contributions to the University went to categories labeled “unrestricted” and “other special purposes.”

While we acknowledge these questions, it is impossible to deny the endowment’s superior returns this past year. We look forward to the noticeable and positive impact the fund’s performance will have on the Brown community for years to come.

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Grace Layer ’20 and Krista Stapleford ’21, and its members, Dylan Tian ’21, Eduard Muñoz-Suñé ’20, Jonathan Douglas ’20, and Riley Pestorius ’21. Send comments to Send comments to

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