University’s endowment helps fund programs

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It may be hard to believe $246 million is a small number, but compared to other universities, Marquette's endowment ranks No. 181 in size, according to a survey from the National Association of College and University Business Officers, also known as NACUBO.

Marquette is far behind the University of Notre Dame with over $3 billion in its endowment and Boston College at $1.15 billion. Still, Marquette ranks ahead of 560 of the 741 schools participating in the survey. Harvard's endowment is largest at over $22 billion, according to the survey.

Those who work with the endowment, which is donated funds invested for future use, have noticed Marquette lags behind top Catholic schools.

"When we compare ourselves to Notre Dame, Georgetown, Boston College, our endowment is inadequate," said Jean Dole, chief advancement officer and campaign director for university advancement at Marquette. "The endowment is very important in helping us go from a good university to a great university."

But Damon Manetta, NACUBO's manager of public affairs, cautioned that comparing endowments is not necessarily a good idea. He said the three other universities all had significantly larger endowments and catching up would be difficult.

Endowments were started at universities across the country to provide stability, make more programs possible, encourage research and help to plan for the future, according to a paper from the American Council on Education.

Marquette's endowment is over 75 years old. The university added focus on the endowment with the Magis Campaign, which started in fall 1998 and will conclude in June.

The endowment is funded in part by donations. Money in an endowment is also invested, as in Marquette's case. In an average year, 4 to 5 percent of Marquette's endowment is comprised of new donations, and 8 to 10 percent comes from returns on the investments, according to Brigid O'Brien, director of university communication.

According to the NACUBO survey, the endowment grew 20.9 percent between the end of the 2003 fiscal year and end of the 2004 fiscal year. Manetta said the growth rate was "pretty good," but cautioned that the survey's numbers came from July 1, 2003, to June 30, 2004, when the rates of returns were the highest since the 1998 fiscal year. Since then, the rates of returns have not been as high.

Donors come from all over, Dole said. Alumni donate to the university, as will non-alumni benefactors and corporations.

The endowment does not sit around, waiting to be spent. According to O'Brien, Marquette spends about 5.5 to 6.5 percent of the endowment per year. The endowment has funded the Robert B. Bell Sr. chair in real estate, chairs in the chemistry and philosophy departments and the first endowed deanship in the College of Engineering, among other projects and programs.

Investing well is the key to success for an endowment, Manetta said. Most smaller colleges' endowments invest in a simple mix of stocks and bonds, but larger universities, such as Marquette, have a more diversified, complex mix of stocks, bonds and other investments which bring in money for the university.

This article appeared in The Marquette Tribune on Feb. 15 2005.

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