Cornell Endowment Posts 3.4% Annual Return, Lowest Among Ivies

  • Private equity, hedge funds, real estate helped performance
  • Chief investment officer cites `challenging market conditions'

Cornell University posted an investment return of 3.4 percent for the year ended June 30, lowest among the schools in the Ivy League, with only Columbia University left to report.

The value of Cornell’s fund reached a record $6.3 billion, up 1.6 percent from last year, despite “challenging market conditions,” Albert Edwards, the chief investment officer, said in statement Thursday. The endowment returned an annual 7.2 percent over the past 10 years, the Ithaca, New York-based school said.

Harvard University, the largest endowment in higher education at $37.6 billion, had the second lowest return among seven of the eight Ivy League schools to report for the fiscal year, with a 5.8 percent gain. Princeton University and Yale University had the highest gains, with 12.7 percent and 11.5 percent, respectively.

Cornell’s investments in private equity, real estate, hedge funds, domestic equity and enhanced fixed income helped the fund’s performance, the school said in the statement.

“We continue to make new commitments across private equity, resource related, enhanced fixed income and real estate as well as public markets, as the current level of volatility is creating opportunities to deploy cash,” Edwards said in the statement.

Edwards is Cornell’s third chief investment officer since 2010. He had previously been the school’s senior investment officer.

Cornell’s gains totaled $192 million and gifts were $188 million. The endowment’s payout to the university, which provides about 10 percent of university revenue, was $306 million, compared with $311 million the previous year.

The median return for endowments and foundations with more than $500 million this year is 3.6 percent, according to an estimate by Wilshire Trust Universe Comparison Service.

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