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College endowments yield just 4% a year since 1998: report

With 10-year returns of just 4.2%, you might think colleges would be getting away from expensive investment managers and volatile strategies. But no.

After a 19% drop in investment values for the fiscal year ended June 30, the average college fund endowment showed just 4.2% in yearly investment returns for the past decade, according to a preliminary survey of 504 schools by the Commonfund investment fund and the National Association of College Business Officers.

Summary here, report should be posted here today, Commonfund spokesman Ron Chernus tells me.

That's not much ahead of inflation. But these guys can't stop hoping: Instead of abandoning high-priced private managers and their volatile strategies, colleges have bet more than half their current endowment money in "less-liquid" (hard-to-sell) corporate-buyout, hedge, real estate, commodity and venture funds.

A final survey from a total of 800 colleges and universities will be published by the groups next month.