GAO Report Examines University Endowments

February 24, 2010

A report issued by Congress's investigative arm Tuesday provided few if any revelations about the state of university endowments, for anybody who has been paying close attention to the debate in Washington and elsewhere about whether colleges are spending aggressively enough from them. The study by the Government Accountability Office, which was mandated by Congress when it renewed the Higher Education Act in 2008, is descriptive rather than analytical in nature. It found that the vast majority of colleges have endowments of under $100 million (despite the wide publicity given to the most well-endowed institutions), that most of the money in the funds is restricted for specific uses (much if not most for financial aid), and that the value of the funds has risen by an average of 6.2 percent a year in inflation-adjusted dollars since 1989.

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