Organic Benchmarks for University Endowments

March 2017

Can a university’s characteristics be a better indicator of an endowment’s effectiveness than endowment size? 


Organic benchmarks based on university characteristics – such as tuition discounts, per-student endowment, endowment payments to university budget, and total student enrollment – can be telling measures of endowment effectiveness. By comparing university goals with the use of endowment assets, this study shows that endowment size alone does not sufficiently measure endowment asset performance.

Key Insights
Organic benchmarks need to reflect the areas a university seeks to improve the most using endowment assets.
Endowment size is just as ambiguous as organic benchmarks in evaluating how effectively endowment assets are being employed.
Organic benchmark results should be compared only among universities similar enough to make legitimate comparisons.

The author examined endowment performance at 898 universities between 2002 and 2014. Using data from NACUBO and the National Center for Education Statistics, he separated the universities into three groups based on endowment size and university characteristics to measure how effectively universities manage their endowment assets.