Bowdoin Posts 1.4% Loss as Colleges Struggle to Produce Gains

  • School says average annual gain over 10 years is 10.4%
  • College tops rival Trinity while trailing Yale University

Bowdoin College, an elite liberal arts school in Brunswick, Maine, lost 1.4 percent on its endowment investments in the year ended June 30 as most universities failed to eke out gains.

The size of Bowdoin’s endowment, which is used to subsidize college operations, fell slightly to $1.34 billion from $1.4 billion after also accounting for fundraising and spending, the college said Wednesday in a statement.

Clayton Rose, Bowdoin’s president, said in the statement that Paula Volent, senior vice president for investments, and the committee overseeing the endowment deserve credit for navigating “highly volatile financial markets.”

Asset Classes

About 430 endowments lost 2.7 percent on average in fiscal 2016, according to an estimate by Cambridge Associates, which manages $9.9 billion for endowments and foundations. The Cambridge data, like the school returns, is net of fees.

Bowdoin said that over 10 years the endowment has generated an average gain of 10.4 percent annually, which is in the first percentile compared with other schools. The endowment’s return of 14.4 percent in fiscal 2015 was one of the best among college funds, and was fueled by a portfolio built around top-performing private equity and hedge funds, Stanley Druckenmiller, a longtime investment committee member, said at the time.

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The portfolio is diversified across different asset classes including domestic and international equities, fixed income, private equity, real estate, and absolute return strategies, according to the statement. Bowdoin in the statement didn’t disclose performance by asset class.

Trinity College, which like Bowdoin is a member of the New England Small College Athletic Conference, lost 5.4 percent on its investments in fiscal 2016. The endowment outsourcing company Investure oversees Trinity’s portfolio. In the Ivy League, Yale University has posted the best return among the group reporting so far, with a 3.4 percent gain, while Cornell University has the worst at a 3.3 percent loss.

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