University Endowments and Student Aid

In “OSU Fund Managers Pig Out: Scholarships Not Awarded to Students,” an article published by the Columbus Free Press, John Lasker has focused on Ohio State University’s growing endowment and on the degree to which those assets are benefitting the students who attend the university.

Here are some of the relevant facts, culled from Lasker’s article:

–The Ohio State University endowment reached the $3.6 billion mark in 2014 and ranked 22nd out of 800-plus US public and private colleges and universities.

–The Ohio State endowment, or “Long Term Investment Pool,” is managed by both internal and external fund managers, and like many college endowments, is managed for the long-term with relatively low risk. The endowment’s yields for the most part are earned from global equity, hedge funds and real assets.

–The endowment for 2012 received $365 million in contributions from over 200,000 donors. Then towards the end of 2012 the endowment was infused with $435 million after the university privatized its parking operations.

–The university’s current “But for Ohio State” campaign, the largest fund raising endeavor in university history, has attracted over 230,000 donors in fiscal year 2015 who have contributed $405 million.

–According to New York Times financial columnist Victor Fleischer, who analyzed for The Free Press the Ohio State endowment’s 2012 tax return, the endowment for that year “provided exactly zero support, no expenditure at all, for scholarships.” Fleischer recently wrote a scathing op-ed titled “Stop Universities from Hoarding Money,” which detailed how the nation’s major universities pay their endowment fund managers millions while much less from the endowment is given to students in financial need.

–Of the 9,300 Ohio State students who graduated in 2013, over 50 percent entered the workforce with an average student loan debt of $26,000.

–In 2012, said Fleischer, Ohio State paid $12 million in administrative expenses, such as salaries and office leases, to its fund managers. “And that doesn’t count millions more in incentive compensation paid to fund managers,” Fleischer said.

–The university’s Office of Investment has asserted that Fleischer’s assessment of the endowment’s 2012 tax return is not entirely accurate. Office of Investment spokesperson Rob Messinger stated that one reason why the Ohio State endowment may not have given anything to students in 2012 may be due to the endowment’s negative 0.1 percent returns that fiscal year.

–In 2014 the endowment had a net investment return of 14.4 percent and it gave $23.6 million to students. But, according to Messinger, “investment management expenses totaled $59 million in fiscal year 2014.”

–Messinger stated that, for fiscal year 2015, the endowment distributed $24.6 million for scholarships, fellowships and loans.

There is a good deal more to the article, but Lasker concludes it by focusing on the next fund-raising campaign, which will specifically ask donors to provide monies for student scholarships and other aid.

Lasker’s complete article is available at:

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