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College contributions and endowments rebound

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Charitable contributions to colleges and universities in the United States increased 9 percent in 2013 and hit a new high, according to the Voluntary Support of Education survey.

Conducted by the Council for Aid to Education, the survey said the total for the year was $33.8 billion.

"In 2009, giving fell from $31.60 billion, which was then the historical high point, to $27.85 billion," the survey said. "Giving levels gradually recovered from that loss until reaching this year's high."

A separate study by the Commonfund Institute and the National Association of College and University Business Officers found that college and university endowment and affiliated foundations achieved an average return (net of investment fees) of 11.7 percent in fiscal year 2013, a sharp reversal from the -0.3 percent return realized in fiscal year 2012.

"Participating institutions reported that an average of 8.8 percent of their operating budget is funded by their endowment, ranging from a high of 16.2 percent for institutions with assets over $1 billion to a low of 2.5 percent for institutions with assets under $25 million," the study said. "Many institutions use their endowment income to fund financial aid and other programs for students and faculty."

"The strong overall performance by endowments is encouraging at a time when the global economy continues its relatively slow recovery from the economic crisis of five years ago," said Commonfund Institute Executive Director John S. Griswold. "This year's investment results reflect in large measure the strength in publicly traded equities that has prevailed since early 2009. While larger endowments have performed better over the longer-term 10-year period, smaller endowments with higher allocations to domestic equities have done well in the shorter term — a result that has enabled them to continue to support their educational missions."

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