Why Is Endowment Important?

NESCAC Endowments '06
What, as much as anything, drives the quality of American higher education?

Endowments do. Endowments help keep tuition down by providing the ongoing financial foundation for colleges and universities, particularly private institutions, so that they may carry on the critical work of preparing the next generation to tackle the world’s challenges. Endowments also represent the understanding that schools like Colby are worthy of investment by individuals and organizations who care about humankind, society, science, culture, and the natural world.

A college endowment operates much like any savings and investment portfolio. The principal gets invested and grows over time, and each year the college spends a small percentage of the endowment to support operations. But in order to keep up with a changing world, the endowment principal must continue to grow through donations.

At Colby, strengthening the endowment is the top fiscal priority, and much of the work left to do in the Reaching the World capital campaign addresses that. The endowment is the basis of Colby’s long-term financial strength and competitiveness. It allows the College to attract and support top students regardless of their financial circumstances, to hire and retain the best faculty, and to offer a world-class academic program. For these reasons, almost half of the original goal of Colby’s Reaching the World campaign ($115 of $235 million) was earmarked to grow the endowment. And now that amount has increased.

Colby has a long and impressive record of careful management and conservative spending. Its endowment, built by gifts from generations of donors and through wise investment, provides critical support to the College.

A comparison of endowment per student, however, shows that Colby has less than one third the resources per student that leading comparable institutions enjoy and ranks well below Bowdoin College. From 1996 to 2006 Colby had the third highest rate of endowment growth in that comparison group and moved up from 13th place to 11th in endowment per student.

Fulfillment of the endowment goals in the Reaching the World campaign can continue that trend, giving Colby students more and better opportunities and making the College even more competitive.

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