Good news number one: Princeton’s endowment earned a 14.7% return for FY 2010, outstripping all but two private university endowments that were valued at over $5 billion in 2010.
Good news number two: Princeton was ranked by Campus Grotto as the 100th most expensive school in the country based on tuition and room and board. Here, we outperformed many of our peer schools (including Yale), but not all (including a certain school in Boston).
And now a good idea for consideration: Let’s keep using the endowment to ease the pain of Princeton fees until the economy makes a stronger recovery. Despite the Obama Administration’s now embarrassing promises of a “Recovery Summer,” the economy is not exactly humming. Unemployment is down, but still above the level when the “stimulus bill” was passed. GDP growth is positive, but tepid. In other words, we’re not out of the woods.
I should give credit where credit is due. The University has managed to limit increases in the total cost of attending Princeton to record lows over the past two academic years while also increasing the financial aid budget in order to continue meeting all demonstrated need.
But the endowment now stands at $14.4 billion. Based on Princeton’s online estimate of approximately 7500 total students, you get about $1.92 million per student. The University – prudently from its standpoint – is planning to move endowment spending back within its target range of 4 to 5.75%. Last year’s spending was 6.1% of the endowment. But maybe we could splurge for one more year.
Perhaps the University would be willing to continue last year’s percent-of-endowment spending levels to expand financial aid, in recognition of the hardship faced both by families who meet our current definition of need and those who may fall just above that line. Or perhaps we could put that money towards holding down fee increases as much as possible.
It’s just an idea. But it would certainly be good news for Princeton students in a year of bad economic news.