Dartmouth’s endowment drops 23 percent
By Greg Berger, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, October 12, 2009
Dartmouth’s endowment fell 23 percent in the 2009 fiscal year that ended June 30, a loss of $835 million, College President Jim Yong Kim announced in a campus-wide e-mail on Friday afternoon. The College will implement a series of budget cuts — the second round of major cuts at the College in less than a year — as a result of the loss, Kim said in an interview with The Dartmouth on Friday.
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Kim said that he is not yet certain of the exact magnitude or timing of the cuts. More specific information about the cuts will be available after the Board of Trustees’ next meeting in early November, he said.
The endowment loss means that annual operating revenue available to the College will be reduced by $50 million.
“We do not expect our endowment to return to its fiscal year 2008 level of $3.66 billion for quite some time,” Kim said in his e-mail to campus.
The endowment now stands at $2.8 billion.
In his e-mail, Kim affirmed that, despite the loss, the endowment has performed well in the long run, with an annual return of 8 percent over the last decade.
Kim and other College administrators were not surprised by the 23 percent loss, Kim said in the interview.
“We had been watching the endowment all year long, and we monitor every month,” Adam Keller, executive vice president for finance and administration, said in an interview. “We saw that the biggest drop really occurred from the nine months until about March, and so at that point we knew that it was down approximately 20 percent.”
Contributions to the College’s operating budget from the endowment will either decrease or remain the same over the next few years, Kim said in the e-mail. Last year, the endowment accounted for 32 percent of the College’s total revenue.
Kim laid out a three-part plan to help the College deal with the financial challenges in the e-mail. The plan focuses on reducing College expenses, increasing efforts to obtain contributions and implementing new initiatives that “build on the strengths of Dartmouth” to increase revenue.
“No single path will be sufficient to address these serious financial challenges,” Kim said in his e-mail.
After the administration determines the size of the budget cuts, Kim said he will hold open forums for members of the Dartmouth community in which he will “go in detail through the budget picture and what we’re facing.”
During these forums — similar to those held by members of former President James Wright’s administration during budget discussions last winter — members of the Dartmouth community will also have the opportunity to provide input on the College’s budget cuts, Kim said.
Kim said he has also been in talks with members of the faculty, particularly those on the Committee on Priorities, to plan how he will proceed with budget cuts. Kim added that there will likely be student surveys, similar to those that Student Assembly sent out last year.
Several of the faculty on the Committee on Priorities did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
The College will continue to focus on its fundraising efforts, Kim said. The Dartmouth College Fund aims to raise $40 million for the 2010 fiscal year. The fund brought in $38.1 million in 2009, and saw alumni participation drop just 1 percent.
Kim said he expects the College will receive the final $60 million it needs in order to meet the $1.3 billion goal of the Campaign for the Dartmouth Experience by the Dec. 31 deadline.
Kim told The Dartmouth that he expects donations to the College will increase if the College effectively communicates its efforts to reduce the budget and to improve overall financial efficiency.
“It’s going to mean a lot of time on the road for me,” he said. “The fundraising is a big part of the job of the president, but I think it’s an even bigger part of my job. But it’s not just me, we have many people on our faculty and administration who are very effective fundraisers, and I think that all of us will have to be on the road doing that work.”
Kim said he has yet to determine the specific elements of the third part of his plan — implementing new initiatives that increase revenue.
“I don’t want to go through any sort of list,” Kim said. “I don’t have one in my head yet, but boy I’ve heard a lot of interesting ideas from faculty members, students and staff about ways that we might be able to increase revenue to Dartmouth College.”
Kim suggested that the College could limit the effect of the endowment loss by working to increase research grant support.
“Just to give one example that I have talked about many times already and one that I do know about, I think that there’s going to be lots of money coming from the federal government to do precisely the kind of research on health care delivery that we do at The Dartmouth Institute,” Kim said.
Despite the endowment losses, Kim stressed in his e-mail to the Dartmouth community that the College remains committed to “providing the finest education in the world.”
“Our priorities are clear: to enable the best students to attend Dartmouth, regardless of their financial means; to continue to attract superb faculty who are both great scholars and great teachers; and to build on our reputation as an exceptional place that offers a personalized educational experience for leaders who will shape the future,” Kim said in his the e-mail.