PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Despite challenging world financial markets, Brown University’s endowment delivered a 5.7-percent return for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2015. At fiscal year end, the endowment had grown to a new peak value of $3.3 billion and distributed $155 million to the University, representing $18,000 per student.
The University is charged with both protecting and growing the endowment to support Brown’s educational mission in perpetuity. To support this dual mission of both preserving and enhancing the value of the endowment, the Brown Corporation limits the endowment’s annual distributions to between 4.5 percent and 5.5 percent of the average market value of the endowment over the prior 12 quarters.
“Strong endowment performance in an environment of continued economic uncertainty allows Brown to sustain its leadership in several important areas,” said Barbara Chernow, executive vice president for finance and administration at Brown. “The endowment’s distributions are a critical resource for the University, representing 16 percent of the operating budget and a significant source of support for professorships, more than 60 academic programs, and our commitment to meeting the demonstrated need of students on financial aid.” The Brown Corporation earlier this year approved an 8-percent increase in the financial aid budget to $112.5 million in the 2015-16 operating budget.
Brown’s 5.7-percent return exceeded both the preliminary return of its benchmark portfolio of 3.3 percent and Cambridge Associates’ preliminary mean and median returns for colleges and universities with endowments over $1 billion, 4 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively. The return ranks Brown in the top quartile of this peer group.
Over the last three years, the Brown University Investment Office has focused on increasing the quality of the endowment’s returns through improved manager selection, a flexible asset allocation model, and an emphasis on capital efficiency and risk management while maintaining liquidity to fund obligations. Since the onset of these changes, the endowment has grown by almost $1 billion and contributed $438 million to the University with a three-year annualized return of 11.3 percent. The average annual return on the endowment over the last five years as of June 30, 2015, was 10.5 percent, and over the last 10 years was 7.5 percent.