Report: University assets exceeded $15 billion last fiscal year


Roxanne Panas/Daily Senior Staffer

Northwestern’s total financial assets over the last nine years.

Joshua Irvine, Reporter

Northwestern’s total financial assets exceeded $15 billion in the 2018 fiscal year even as administrators prepared for a forthcoming budget deficit, according to a report released by the University late December.

The 2018 Financial Report, addressing the fiscal year from Sept. 1, 2017 to Aug. 31, 2018, saw the University’s total assets climb by nearly $1 billion, buoyed by high returns from the University’s investment portfolio and a multibillion-dollar fundraising campaign, among other factors. The report was compiled by the Office of Financial Operations and includes the University’s audited annual financial statements and consolidated statement of activities.

The University’s investment portfolio recorded gains of 10.3 percent, exceeding the portfolio’s 12-month objective by 2 percent. The Long-Term Balanced Pool, the largest of three investment pools, increased by $558 million to $11 billion. Returns from the Long-Term Balanced Pool totaled $444 million — money that, according to the report, will maintain the University’s purchasing power and fund university programs.

The report’s conclusion on the Long-Term Balanced Pool, signed by vice president and chief investment officer William H. McLean, attributed the portfolio’s success to a soaring U.S. stock market and low volatility.

In a letter to the board of trustees included in the financial report, Craig Johnson, senior vice president for business and finance, reserved special praise for the We Will campaign, a fundraising effort run by Alumni Relations and Development. The letter said the campaign passed its fundraising goal of $3.75 billion nearly two years ahead of schedule. As of November 2018, the campaign had raised $4.16 billion towards a now $5 billion goal.

The report made no mention of the budget deficit in the current fiscal year. Provost Jonathan Holloway first reported the deficit at a Jan. 10, 2018 Faculty Senate Meeting. The deficit has led to 80 staff members being laid off and departmental cuts that have affected facilities ranging from student groups to the Norris University Center ice rink, which did not open this winter.

The University posted a $5.28 million surplus of operating revenues over expenses in the 2018 fiscal year, half the size of the $12.7 million surplus from the 2017 fiscal year. Administrators projected the deficit would reach $130 million last year, though comments made in November 2018 by University President Morty Schapiro suggested the projections for the deficit had improved. Holloway attributed the deficit to numerous factors in his January 2018 address to Faculty Senate, including the maintenance and utilities costs of new buildings and hiring high-profile faculty.

Johnson’s letter said that spending would “return to more traditional levels” following the completion of several infrastructure projects on the Chicago and Evanston campuses.

“As the spirit and abilities of our faculty and students drive Northwestern forward as a world-renowned institution, we will continue to balance strategic objectives with financial capacity,” Johnson’s letter said.

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