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Bowdoin Endowment Surpasses $1 Billion
09/19/2013   Reported By: Jay Field

Bowdoin College's endowment has surpassed the $1 billion mark for the first time in the school's history. By comparison, Colby College's estimated endowment for the same period was $650 million, while Bates College came in at roughly $230 million. As Jay Field reports, Bowdoin officials say the strong growth of its endowment will allow the college to keep increasing the amount of financial aid it offers incoming students.

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When Barry Mills took over as Bowdoin's president, roughly 35 percent of students at the Brunswick college were receiving financial aid. Twelve years later, Mills says the number has jumped to as many as 47 percent of students at the college.

"Clearly, the additional resources that we have been given by our alumni, parents and friends, and our investment return, has allowed us to increase the amount of aid that we're able to give to students," Mills says.

Tuition at Bowdoin tops out at nearly $58,000 a year. By tapping its growing endowment, the college offers all those financial aid students an average grant of just under $37,000.

"It is a very strong and enduring support for our ability to make Bowdoin affordable to students from poor backgorunds and from the middle class," Mills says.

By the time the fiscal year ended on June 30, the college had reaped a 16 percent return on its investments. That pushed the endowment to over a $1 billion for the first time and landed Bowdoin in rare company.

"There are fewer than 70 institutions in the United States that have endowments of over a billion dollars," says Ken Redd, the director of research and policy analysis at the National Association of University and College Business Officers.

"It is an accomplishment," Redd says, "and it reflects a couple of things: One, the investment markets have gotten better. And two, at a lot of institutions, there has been a greater emphasis on growing endowments through fundraising."

Redd says it's likely that Bowdoin's peers in Maine, Colby and Bates, are paying close attention to the billion dollar milestone.

"Institutions very often benchmark themselves, and try to compare themselves, relative to their investment returns and their strategies and things like that, related to their endowment," Redd says. "It's quite a competitive environment."

"Well, we think it's wonderful," says Colby spokeswoman Ruth Jacobs. "We certainly noticed and we're happy for Bowdoin. It's a great accomplishment for them."

Jacobs, Colby's director of communications, downplays any notion of competition. "Each institution has its own individual way of investing, and so, I think we're all different in that respect," she says. "And our numbers are growing. Our number went up significantly from last year as well, and we're happy with that."

Jacobs says Colby's estimated endowment for fiscal year 2013 topped out at $650 millions. A spokesman at Bates was unavailable to do a taped interview, but confirmed that the college expects its endowment for the same period to reach $230 million.


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