The University of Chicago’s endowment dropped around $400 million last year, the first time it has lost ground since the depths of the 2008 financial crisis, the University News Office announced Thursday.
The size of the endowment waxes and wanes based on fundraising, the value of the investments contained in the endowment, and the amount taken out to pay for University programming.
The endowment stood at $7.1 billion as of June 30, 2016, down 1.9 percent from $7.58 billion in June 2015. The 2015 figure was an all-time peak for the University, the result of six years of gains that more than made up for the huge losses during the financial crisis. The figure for 2016 is still the third-largest the endowment has ever reported.
The News Office statement says that the returns on the endowment compare positively to the performance of similar endowments and the global stock market.
It is looking to be a difficult year for many university endowments. The Wilshire Trust Universe Comparison Service, a database of endowments compiled by Wilshire Associates, reported a median return of negative .73 percent for endowments more than $500 million—last year’s News Office statement on the endowment noted approvingly that 2015’s returns exceeded the same measure last year.
Among schools with a roughly comparable endowment size, endowments shrunk by .8 percent (Columbia), 1.5 percent (University of Virginia), .3 percent (Notre Dame), and 2.6 percent (Duke University). Harvard’s endowment fell 2 percent, which represents a loss of $2 billion. Harvard’s annual endowment report repeatedly called the result “disappointing.” Not every prestigious university with a large endowment lost money this year—Yale and MIT posted gains of 3.4 percent and .8 percent.