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Yale endowment rises 2% in fiscal 2008, climbing to almost $23b

Yale's investment return failed to match the 8.6 percent reported last week by Harvard. Yale's investment return failed to match the 8.6 percent reported last week by Harvard. (Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/File 2007)
Bloomberg News / September 17, 2008
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NEW YORK - Yale University's endowment totaled almost $23 billion on June 30, the school's top official said, or about 2 percent more than was reported a year earlier. Yale's president, Richard Levin, disclosed the fiscal 2008 total in a letter to graduates and friends of the New Haven university. Yale reported having $22.53 billion at the end of fiscal 2007.

Levin didn't disclose the investment return on the endowment, which is also affected by new donations and by withdrawals for operating expenses. Yale had a positive return that failed to match the 8.6 percent reported last week by Harvard University, the Yale Daily News reported Monday, citing an unnamed school official.

Levin reiterated the university's plans to increase its endowment payout by 37 percent this year as the school tries "to encourage access and invest in science." Spending from the fund averaged 3.7 to 3.8 percent of the total during the last two years, the Levin letter said.

"The low rate of spending at Yale and some of our peer institutions elicited some public criticism and the corporation became concerned that the conservatism of our endowment payout rule was favoring future generations over the present," he wrote.

David Swensen, chief investment officer for Yale, didn't respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment. Gila Reinstein, a spokeswoman for the university, confirmed the authenticity of the Sept. 12 letter, copies of which were received by Bloomberg News. The endowment's financial results for fiscal 2008 will be released publicly this month, Reinstein said yesterday.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 13.1 percent, dividends included, during the year ended June 30. The returns of institutions similar to Harvard and Yale averaged a negative 3.0 percent, according to Wilshire Associates Inc.'s Trust Universe Comparison Service. Yale's endowment was the second-biggest education fund in the United States as of June 30, 2007, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers, a Washington-based advocacy group. Harvard's was the largest. The Harvard fund reached $36.9 billion at June 30, 2008, the school said Friday.

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