Large dollars tend to attract many of us. That is why the Powerball attracted so many people at the tidy sum of 1.3 billion. Yet the larger the number, the more people participate. Someone had the brilliant idea of distributing Powerball winnings to everyone in the country thinking it would be a tidy windfall; maybe enough to eliminate poverty. As it turns out, it barely gets us enough to buy a cup of coffee after taxes at a pre-tax number of about $4 each.
Endowments are sums of money to cover future generations. There are lots of ways to measure future impact of endowment dollars as they could cover many new projects and programs. I took the Powerball concept about just distributing endowment over the most recent fall enrollment dollars. While I don’t think major donors will go for this concept, it does give us some perspective of the relative amount of the endowment size over the student base.
Harvard has by far the largest endowment in terms of sheer size coming in at over 36 billion dollars. However, it barely cracks the top 10 when it comes to endowment per student at a pedestrian $1.26 million per student. Rockefeller University dwarfs other schools coming in at over $9 million per student. Not surprising given the focus of Rockefeller on hard to solve, very expensive medical research areas. Soka University comes in second at nearly $3 million per student. As expected, 3 of the top 10 universities were Ivy League schools. Stanford edges out Harvard as the largest university in the top 10. If we cashed out every school’s enrollment, the average distribution would be just under $100,000.
It is admittedly hard to look at endowments this way given the wide range of uses for endowment dollars. Comparing peers however in this way may be helpful. See the implementation of this in Public Insight by watching my brief video blog below.
I created a spreadsheet using Public Insight that compares endowment dollars for the past five years and ranks by asset size, 1 year growth, 5 year growth, and endowment per student. You can download it here.