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Endowments growing again at most Indiana universities

Indiana UniversityIndiana college endowments are making a long climb back from the recession, but the recovery has been slow and frustrating for schools facing budget cuts and pressure to limit tuition increases and provide more financial aid.

Endowments at the state’s two largest public universities, Indiana University and Purdue University, rose above pre-recession levels by June 30, 2011, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers. Purdue’s climbed 15 percent, to $2 billion, while IU’s inched up 2 percent, to $1.6 billion.

But performance at other schools varied widely, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported. Indiana Wesleyan University’s endowment was 29 percent higher than it was in 2008, while Ball State University’s was 26 percent lower.

“You see a lot of universities going all over the map,” said Ken Redd, the association’s director of research and policy analysis.

A combination of strong investment returns and gifts helped push the total value of Indiana’s 20 largest college endowments to $12.5 billion as of June 30, 2011, up 0.9 percent from the 2008 fiscal year. Figures for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, will be released early next year and are expected to show more gains.

Some schools still have a steep road ahead. Fourteen of 20 Indiana schools the IBJ examined were still below where they were three years earlier, and 15 grew more slowly than the state’s average.

Indiana isn’t alone in its plight. U.S. college endowments nationally were down 4.7 percent from 2008 levels at the end of the 2011 fiscal year. Endowments are created when university officials collect donations, invest the money and then decide how to use the returns.

Public universities tend to use their endowments for student aid and academic programs. Private schools often use them to offset payrolls and other operational costs. Redd said many universities have ramped up their fundraising efforts to help expand their endowments. Marion-based Indiana Wesleyan is one of those schools.

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