Endowments and spending in B schools

While the program fees for MBA and other executive education programs in B schools is widely known,  funding of the B schools remains a key area of interest for any B school’s management team.

In B schools, funding comes in mainly through 3 sources: MBA Tutions, Development Activities and Executive program fees. Development activities generally include annual giving, capital giving and corporate giving.  During a discussion at roundtable conference in Mexico in 2010, it was found that in top tier US B schools, percentage of revenue distribution is in the range of 40% from MBA Tutions,  30% from Development Activities and 20% from Executive program fees. On the other hand, In European B schools distribution is in the range of 70% from MBA Tutions, 7% from Development Activities and 23% from Executive program fees. In Mexican B schools the distribution between MBA Tutions & Exec Education is 80% & 20%.

Alumni givings vary as per the culture to give back & Corporate givings vary as per tax treatment. Tuck has an excellent Development office as the culture of giving back is part of the structure of their society.  In Europe, very few have been able to create an endowment larger than ten million Euros.  For example, INSEAD still has a rather small endowment despite 20 years of intense work & close alumni relations. Oxford and Cambridge recently have been more successful in the UK but probably because they have a larger base of alumni and very strong brand names.  The rest of the schools in Europe are not very successful in annual giving or endowments. In Mexico individual alumni giving is not very well developed since it is not part of the tradition.

The financial models drive B schools to build up their strategy and business models. European B schools have a full service business model with a large portfolio of programs & large faculty pool whereas B schools in Mexico (EGADE), Columbia, Argentina and Venezuela have a tuition driven model. In IMD 80% of the revenue comes from executive education. Most schools in the U.S. get most of their revenues from tuition. The top of the pyramid B schools in US have significant annual donations and endowment earnings.

An endowment is the permanent capital of a university, which provides funding for the academic mission of the institution. According to the 2010 report of the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), the University of Virginia, has an endowment of roughly $3.9 billion, Duke has an endowment of about $4.8 billion, Notre Dame has an endowment around $5.2 billion, the University of Pennsylvania has an endowment of about $5.7 billion. Princeton’s endowment exceeds $11 billion and Yales exceeds $15 billion. Stanford and Harvard have roughly $13.9 billion and $27.6 billion, respectively.

The rate of spending is between 4% – 5% in the US B schools including Harvard, Yale and Princeton.  Some critics feel that a 5% annual withdrawal from the endowment is far too conservative. Based on analysis of giving patterns and investment returns at a variety of schools, 6% would be more reasonable. On the other hand at 4%, schools are signalling they won’t use new gifts for decades to come. Increasingly many donors may realize that their modest contribution is going to mean very little to the school.


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