In fiscal year 2022, endowments at North Carolina’s wealthiest colleges experienced both increases and decreases, as per a recent analysis by the Business Journals utilizing data from the U.S. Department of Education. Duke University, boasting the largest endowment among North Carolina schools, observed a 4.5 percent decline in its endowment from 2021 to 2022. Nevertheless, Duke’s endowment, standing at approximately $12.1 billion, has surged by 40.7 percent since 2019. This performance places Duke in line with trends seen at other universities across the United States.
Nationwide, college and university endowments collectively decreased by 4.5 percent between 2021 and 2022, yet have shown a 32 percent increase since 2019. The early stock market boom during the pandemic yielded exceptional outcomes for some institutions but also exacerbated the gap between the wealthiest schools and others. Despite criticisms questioning the purpose of multi-billion-dollar endowments, these funds are vital for supporting various initiatives and ensuring long-term fulfillment of universities’ missions.
Following Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State possess the second and third largest endowments in North Carolina. Both institutions witnessed growth in their endowments from 2021 to 2022, a contrast to many other schools in the state. UNC’s endowment reached about $5.3 billion in 2022, marking a 2.9 percent increase from the previous year and a remarkable 51.3 percent rise since 2019. Similarly, N.C. State’s endowment totaled $2 billion, reflecting a 3.7 percent increase from the previous year and a 44.1 percent increase over the past four years.
Moreover, several smaller institutions, such as N.C. Central, Shaw University, and Saint Augustine’s University, experienced varying degrees of growth in their endowments. Despite fluctuations, these endowments play a critical role in funding institutional initiatives and supporting the long-term sustainability of these educational establishments.
On a national scale, elite universities like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford boast substantial endowment totals, with assets per student serving as a key indicator of institutional wealth. However, concerns about organizational inequality arise as intense asset growth at these institutions may disproportionately benefit students from advantaged backgrounds. Advocates call for greater transparency regarding endowments and spending, particularly in elite, private university settings where investment strategies remain opaque.
Meanwhile, public universities grapple with funding challenges, with some turning to endowments to mitigate budgetary shortfalls resulting from state funding cuts. However, endowments aren’t a straightforward solution, as funds are often tied to specific spending stipulations. Some universities are criticized for prioritizing endowment growth over addressing socio-economic diversity and expanding undergraduate enrollments, prompting calls for more equitable distribution of resources.