Brown Leads Ivies for Third Year in a Row, as Columbia, Harvard Lag Behind

Endowment investment returns range from 32.3% to 51.5% for the fiscal year ending June 30.

Brown University’s endowment returns have topped its Ivy League rivals for the third straight year, while the Columbia University and Harvard University endowments find themselves lagging behind their rivals despite earning historic returns of more than 30% each for fiscal year 2021.

Princeton University, which is the only Ivy League school that hasn’t yet reported its 2021 endowment performance, said it will announce results later this fall.

Brown’s 51.5% return cruised past the other Ivies, beating out the next highest performance by 5 percentage points and raising the fund’s market value to $6.9 billion from $4.7 billion at the end of fiscal year 2020.

Brown was followed by Dartmouth College’s endowment, which reported a return of 46.5% for the fiscal year that ended June 30, to raise its portfolio’s market value to $8.5 billion from $6 billion last year. The endowment also reported annualized returns of 12.8% over the past 10 years.

Cornell University followed Dartmouth, returning 41.9% to boost its total asset value to $10 billion from $7.2 billion in 2020—its largest gain in more than three decades. Close behind was the University of Pennsylvania’s endowment, which generated an investment return of 41.1% for the fiscal year, growing its portfolio’s assets by $5.6 billion during the fiscal year to $20.5 billion.

Yale’s endowment was next, reporting a 40.2% investment return net of fees, to earn more than $12 billion in gains and rise to $42.3 billion. And pulling up the rear were Harvard and Columbia’s endowments, which returned 33.6% and 32.3%, respectively.

Harvard lifted its market value to $53.2 billion, an increase of $11.3 billion from the previous fiscal year, and the largest sum in its history, while the market value of Columbia’s portfolio increased to $14.35 billion, from $11.3 billion last year. The two schools also fell behind non-Ivy League rivals Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Stanford University, whose endowments returned 55.5% and 40.1%, respectively for fiscal year 2021. MIT’s performance raised its asset value by $9 billion to $27.4 billion, while Stanford’s returns translated to $12.1 billion in net investment gains as the value of the merged pool rose to $41.9 billion.

The median return for US college and university endowments for the year, as preliminarily reported by Cambridge Associates, is 33.4%.

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