Economy affects local college endowments, tuition

The current strain of the economy is not only affecting people, but businesses as well. And, a wealthy business that has been hit hard by the American economic slowdown is education, especially public and private colleges and universities.

A national trend is showing that college wealth and endowments are steadily dwindling. Not only are big name, national institutions like Harvard reporting financial losses, but regional colleges are as well.

Few schools are giving exact numbers, but University of Rochester is reporting that their endowments have dropped by 25 percent since June of this year, and locally, colleges are not fairing well either.

Colgate University's Manager of Media Communications Anthony Adornato said that as of late October, Colgate's endowment has dropped nearly 11 percent or $75 million.

"Similar to our peer colleges and universities," Adornato said, "our endowment has lost significant market value throughout 2008. A lower endowment market values will require Colgate to, at the very least, substantially reduce the annual growth rate in endowment spending in 2009-10."

An endowment, which is primarily money donated to a college, will normally fund student scholarships, building projects, creating new academic programs and also help to keep tuition somewhat low. And, when endowments drop, so do these projects and programs.

Recently, President of Colgate Rebecca Chopp outlined her college's line of defense against the economic downturn in two press releases viewable on Colgate's website.

In what she calls "immediate measures", Chopp lists four ways she is planning on combating financial issues.

First, Colgate plans to "substantially reduce next fiscal year's operating budget allocation to capital projects," it said in the press release. In doing this, they will significantly reduce renovation and maintenance of the college.

Second, the president has asked "all deans and vice presidents to identify five percent savings in their operating budgets from 2009-10." This would give Chopp an idea of what cuts she can make without severely impacting Colgate's "educational mission."

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