The university’s endowment declined 3 percent from about $1.53 billion to $1.48 billion between fiscal years 2015 and 2016, according to a report of U.S. and Canadian university endowments conducted by the National Association of College and University Business Officers.
Georgetown’s endowment is now ranked 61st for endowment funds of peer universities, below Harvard University, The George Washington University and Stanford University. The average change of all endowment funds reported by NACUBO was a loss of 2.9 percent from fiscal year 2015 to fiscal year 2016.
Georgetown University, ranked 20 on the U.S. News & World Report’s 2017 Best National Universities, has the lowest endowment of the top 20 universities listed. The average funds of the endowments of the top 20 universities, excluding the University of California system, is about $10.07 billion, approximately $8.59 billion larger than Georgetown’s endowment.
Emory University and Washington University in St. Louis, which rank immediately after Georgetown, have endowments of approximately $6.40 billion and $6.46 billion, respectively.
A smaller endowment hinders Georgetown’s ability to offer competitive financial aid packages to prospective students, according to Bart Moore, vice president of the Office of Advancement. Moore said in an interview with The Hoya the primary reason students do not attend Georgetown is because of a lack of financial support.
“From their responses to our survey request, we do know that the most-cited reason they enroll elsewhere is they were offered more generous financial aid someplace else,” Moore said. “So, it is very clear that financial aid or affordability is a leading reason that students choose to go elsewhere.”
Georgetown University uses the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to determine a family’s financial need. Georgetown matches the financial need indicated by the FAFSA, but does not offer merit-based aid.
“Sometimes, other institutions that are not limited to need-based aid will seek out or try to compete for that student by offering merit aid exclusively or merit aid on top of some need-sensitive financial aid offer,” Moore said.
Georgetown’s endowment size has limited its ability to meet the FAFSA’s indicated financial need with only direct grants, requiring students to take out loans or participate in federal work-study to receive their full indicated need.
“Historically, Georgetown has met its students financial aid needs through a somewhat greater, modestly greater reliance on federal government guaranteed loans and federal work-study and then a comparatively smaller grant or scholarship,” Moore said, “and some of our peer institutions, for example, have eliminated government-subsidized loans or they’re reducing somewhat federal work study income.”
Media Relations Manager Ryan King said Georgetown’s endowment has performed well relative to global markets.
“Against a challenging global market environment in recent years, Georgetown’s endowment has performed reasonably well,” King wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Over the trailing five years ended 12/31/2016, the Georgetown endowment earned an annualized return of nearly 8 percent compared to 5 percent for the portfolio’s benchmark. This return is top quartile among more than 300 endowments and foundations tracked by the university’s investment consultant.”
According to the FY2016 Stewardship Investment Report, which is sent out to Georgetown donors and is available on Georgetown University’s Office of Advancement website, the fund has grown from $696 million in fiscal year 2004 to $1.48 billion in fiscal year 2016. While returns on investment help the fund grow, the fastest way to grow the fund is by increasing its principal.
“The fastest way to grow the endowment is through new contributions, and we’re contributing to the endowment and accelerating at historic high rates,” Moore said.
Georgetown has launched a series of recent campaigns to increase the size of its endowment and to fund other projects, such as the John R. Thompson Intercollegiate Athletic center. The For Generations to Come Campaign lasted five years and ended last June, raising $1.675 billion over that time.
Five percent of the endowment is withdrawn for use as current funds, enabling it to be used by the university for a range of needs. Of that 5 percent, 36 percent is spent on academic research and programs, 25 percent on professorships, 22 percent on financial aid and the remainder on smaller initiatives, such as facilities and library expenses.
Georgetown University Student Association President Kamar Mack (COL ’19) said it is important that students understand the value of contributions from an early stage.
“Making sure that Hoyas understand why it’s important to give back to the university while we’re here,” Mack said. “That’s why Jessica and I want to work closely with the Office of Advancement and make sure that everyone is indoctrinated with the concept that Georgetown is as good as you make it, and we want to make sure that everyone leaves with a sense of why it’s so important to give back to the university.”