University endowments climb with the stock market

North Carolina universities posted healthy gains in the value of their endowed funds in 2014, in keeping with national data released Tuesday.

A rising stock market led to an average return of 15.5 percent survey for endowment funds in fiscal 2014, according to an annual survey of 832 U.S. colleges and universities called the NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments.

A higher return rate on investments meant universities were able to spend more on student financial aid, faculty support and other programs. Three-quarters of schools in the survey reported spending more last year from their funds.

Of North Carolina institutions, Duke University had the largest endowment at $7 billion in 2014. UNC-Chapel Hill’s foundations had a value of almost $2.7 billion – up 13.2 percent from the previous year, the study said.

Wake Forest University’s funds reached 1.1 billion, while N.C. State’s foundations were up 15 percent to $885 million. Elon University had the best return rate of 22 percent on its $189 million in endowment assets.

Universities are ramping up their fundraising efforts as the economy has bounced back. Last year, Duke had a record year of private giving during its multiyear $3.25 billion drive.

Though North Carolina universities had a good year, they didn’t come close to the leader in the survey: Harvard University’s endowment reached a value of almost $36 billion last year.