Pig in a tux

The Ohio State University endowment reached the $3.6 billion mark in 2014 and ranked 22nd out of 800-plus US public and private colleges and universities, this according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers.
  The Ohio State endowment, or “Long Term Investment Pool,” is managed by both internal and external fund managers, and like many college endowments, is managed for the long-term with relatively low risk. The endowment’s yields for the most part are earned from global equity, hedge funds and real assets.
  The endowment is heavily financed by the university’s current “But for Ohio State” campaign, the largest fund raising endeavor in university history, as over 230,000 donors in fiscal year 2015 contributed $405 million.
  Any Buckeye alum will tell you the university has upped its game when it comes to soliciting donations for the endowment, as regular phone calls from Ohio State phone banks continue. And no doubt the endowment has helped the university pay for capital improvements, research and retaining top faculty.
  But what about scholarships, or any form of tuition assistance for that matter, to students in need?
  According to New York Times financial columnist Victor Fleischer, who analyzed for The Free Press the Ohio State endowment’s 2012 tax return, the endowment for that year “provided exactly zero support, no expenditure at all, for scholarships,” he said.
  What makes this alarming is that the endowment for 2012 received $365 million in contributions from over 200,000 donors. Then towards the end of 2012 the endowment was infused with $435 million after the university privatized its parking operations.
  Fleischer recently wrote a scathing op-ed titled “Stop Universities from Hoarding Money,” which detailed how the nation’s major universities pay their endowment fund managers millions while much less from the endowment is given to students in financial need.
  In 2012, said Fleischer, Ohio State paid $12 million in administrative expenses, such as salaries and office leases, to its fund managers. “And that doesn't count millions more in incentive compensation paid to fund managers,” he said.
  And while no one needs to be reminded, the national student loan debt is an estimated $1.2 trillion and greater than the nation’s credit card debt. Of the 9,300 Ohio State students who graduated in 2013, over 50 percent entered the workforce with student loan debt owing an average of $26,000.
  “The (Ohio State endowment) serves the interests of money managers, not students,” said Fleischer, who is also an author and University of San Diego law professor. “Obviously this is problematic. When people give money to a great research university like Ohio State, they believe the money is going to advance knowledge and help out students in need. Instead it’s Wall Street that ends up better off. It's unjust, and it's an unfair exploitation of generous donors.”
  The university’s Office of Investment told The Free Press that Fleischer’s assessment of the endowment’s 2012 tax return is not entirely accurate. Nonetheless, Office of Investment spokesperson Rob Messinger gave The Free Press a nonsensical “financialese” explanation that did not include a monetary figure as to how the endowment contributed to tuition assistance.
  One reason why the Ohio State endowment may not have given anything to students in 2012 may be due to the endowment’s negative 0.1 percent returns that fiscal year.
  However, the economy has improved, and for fiscal year 2015 the endowment distributed $24.6 million for scholarships, fellowships and loans, said Messinger.
  In 2014 the endowment had a net investment return of 14.4 percent and it gave $23.6 million to students. But according to Messinger, “investment management expenses totaled $59 million in fiscal year 2014.”
  The endowment of course is not the only source of tuition assistance offered by Ohio State.
  “Ohio State provides student aid from a variety of sources, and the endowment is only one,” said Messinger. “In all, undergraduate student financial aid from Ohio State totaled $133 million in fiscal year 2014.”
  No doubt rising tuition costs and increasing student loan debt continues to fuel one of today’s most contentious debates – the growing inequality from the haves and have-nots. Tuition or fees at Ohio State have risen each year since the early 1980s, but the annual hikes came to an end this year after the university froze all costs for in-state undergraduate students.
  What’s more, Ohio State President Michael V. Drake’s 2020 Vision plan announced earlier this year calls for identifying $400 million over the next five years to support scholarships and other initiatives.
  “The first targeted use of these funds will go directly to fund scholarships for low- and middle-income students by a minimum of $15 million beginning this fall, with an overall goal of as much as $100 million by 2020,” he said.
  On several Ohio State web pages related to the university’s endowment, it was stated that one significant reason the university needs the endowment to grow is due to the state’s shrinking contributions to all Ohio public universities.
  “The endowment supports the quality of teaching, our libraries, academic advising and the myriad other ways we serve students,” said Messinger. “Every dollar raised for teaching, research and learning, benefits students because it allows us to invest in those areas without relying on tuition or tax dollars.”

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