Saturday, January 28, 2023

With state funding cuts, Reveley says W&M endowment isn’t big enough yet

College of William and Mary president Taylor Reveley is looking to grow the endowment to at least $1 billion. (Steve Roberts, Jr./WYDaily)
College of William and Mary president Taylor Reveley is looking to grow the endowment to at least $1 billion. (Steve Roberts, Jr./WYDaily)

College of William and Mary president Taylor Reveley wants to see the college’s endowment grow enough to make higher education cheaper for more students in Williamsburg.

While the endowment is at its highest level ever, at nearly $900 million according to Reveley, the college’s endowment isn’t big enough yet.

“No matter the comparison group, William and Mary is grossly under-endowed,” Reveley wrote in a 2017 financial report. “We do remarkably more with strikingly less. The shoestring is very tightly pulled. It is past time that we become able to do more with more.”

According to the financial report, the General Assembly reduced the college’s funding permanently by $2.2 million while faculty and staff salary increases were shelved in fiscal year 2017.

Reductions in funding become the norm from the state legislature, according to Samuel Jones, College of William and Mary senior vice president for finance and administration.

“State support will remain unsteady as higher education competes for limited state funds in an uncertain economic environment,” Jones wrote in the report.

The college’s endowment helps insulate it from tumultuous political situations in Richmond, according to the report. Nine years ago, the endowment for the college and its components totaled nearly $580 million.

In June 2017, the endowment had grown by nearly 55 percent to nearly $900 million.

Most of that growth was from new gifts to the endowment while nearly $90.5 million of the growth was from capital gains minus certain authorized spending withdrawals.

The endowment serves not only to help the college make ends meet, but it also provides scholarships to students. These scholarships help keep William and Mary competitive and diverse, according to the report.

“If William & Mary is to make steady progress in the socioeconomic diversity of campus, we must succeed in our efforts to grow our endowments for scholarships,” Jones wrote. “These scholarships are needed as well for middle-income families from outside Virginia. The cost of attending William and Mary invariably exceeds their families’ capacity to pay without more aid than we are now able to provide.”

Despite growth in the endowment, the college ran a $4.2 million dollar operating loss, according to the unaudited report.

While the operating loss may be negative, Reveley is concerned that the endowment needs to grow considerably to keep pace with other institutions in the commonwealth.

“While our endowment is stronger than at any other time in William & Mary’s long history, we seriously lag behind other leading universities,” Reveley wrote.

Similar institutions all have endowments “well above $1 billion (most are north of $3 billion),” Reveley wrote. “Endowment growth will provide long-term support for students, faculty and programs and will ensure the margin of excellence that distinguishes William and Mary.”

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