Columbia, Yale, MIT top elite endowment performance

The Alma Mater statue in front of the library on the campus of Columbia University in New York.
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The Alma Mater statue in front of the library on the campus of Columbia University in New York.

Columbia and Yale are at the top of a new ranking of long-term university endowment investment performance.

Both Ivy League schools produced an average return of 11 percent over the last 10 years, according to a compilation of publicly disclosed figures compiled by executive recruitment firm Charles A. Skorina & Co.

That was better than peers like the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell, whose endowments returned 8.1 percent and 8.2 percent, respectively. The S&P 500 index returned 7.8 percent over the same 2005 to 2014 period. And the average endowment with more than $1 billion grew by 8.5 percent, according to an NACUBO-Commonfund study.

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Elite school endowment performance over 10 years

 
Endowment
10-yr rtn %
AUM $bn
1-yr rtn%
3-yr rtn %
5-yr rtn%
1 Columbia 11 9.2 17.5 10.3 14.2
2 Yale 11 23.9 20.2 12.3 13.5
3 MIT 10.9 12.4 19.2 12.7 13.2
4 Notre Dame 10.8 9.8 19.7 11.3 13.2
5 Duke 10.8 7 20.1 11.2 14.2
6 Princeton 10.5 21 19.6 11.3 14
7 Stanford 9.9 21.4 17 9.8 13.2
8 Univeristy of
Chicago
9.6 7.5 12.7 8.7 12.6
9 Dartmouth 9.2 4.5 19.2 12.2 13
10 Harvard 8.9 36.4 15.4 12.2 11.6
NA Endowments
>$1bn
8.5 NA 16.8 9.6 12.1
11 Brown 8.3 3.2 16.1 9.7 11.5
12 Cornell 8.2 6.2 15.8 8.9 11.7
13 University of
Pennsylvania
8.1 9.6 17.5 10.9 12.9
NA S&P 500 7.8 NA 24.6 15.4 18.1
Source: Charles A. Skorina & Co., November 2014

While Columbia and Yale were highest among the country's elite schools, MIT endowment head Seth Alexander earned Skorina's pick as "CIO of the Decade."

Alexander "delivered the strongest endowment performance among his peers over the last volatile 10 years for the lowest 'risk,'" Skorina wrote in a newsletter.

MIT produced returns of 10.9 percent over the last 10 years with the highest Sharpe ratio (0.88) of its peer group. A Sharpe ratio essentially shows how volatile a portfolio is; the higher the number, the lower the theoretical risk.

Columbia's figure was 0.85 and Yale's 0.72. The average $1 billion or more endowment had a Sharpe ratio of 0.73.

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