The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday March 20th

Students to get look inside $2.1 billion endowment

UNC’s $2.1 billion endowment is made up of three overall funds and provides additional services the University would otherwise not be able to provide, such as scholarships and professorships. The Daily Tar Heel broke down the largest segment in the attached graphic to show what money could be up for grabs.

In the face of steep tuition hikes last year, student protesters demanded to know why the University’s endowment was not used to minimize the burden on students.

Today, after more than a year and several delays, administrators will deliver on their promise to host a forum to explain the endowment to students.

The forum, which is hosted by the environmental affairs committee of student government, will feature a panel of administrators including Chancellor Holden Thorp and Jon King, CEO of UNC Management Company, which manages the endowment.

Student Body President Will Leimenstoll said the forum will help students understand the purpose of the endowment, how much money there is and where that money goes.

“We know this is an issue that may be on the back burner,” he said. “But this is the year to educate ourselves on issues surrounding the endowment and tuition so that when tuition discussions are pressing, we’ll have more facts.”

Tuition discussions were markedly more subdued this year, as a $600 increase for in-state undergraduates in 2013-14 had already been approved.

But student interest in the $2.1 billion endowment hasn’t waned.

The endowment is composed primarily of private funds. Donors designate the allocation of their money. The donated money is then invested, and interest from the investments contributes to UNC’s long-term growth.

“With the endowment discussion, our overall goal is education,” Leimenstoll said. “But in the long run it would be great to see some kinds of reform to the endowment.”

Katherine Shor, co-chairwoman of the environmental affairs committee, said more transparency is necessary to maintain the University’s national reputation.

“This is definitely an inaugural kind of event that will lead to an atmosphere of greater transparency on campus,” she said.

Junior Sean Langberg, who was active in tuition protests last spring, said administrative transparency is necessary for students like him to understand the endowment.

At a Board of Trustees meeting last year, Langberg asked King why the endowment wasn’t being used to offset the tuition hikes.

Langberg said King declined to answer his question, but he hopes the forum will finally bring an answer.

“I hope to learn a lot, because we don’t know anything,” he said. “That’s the problem here — students have no idea where the money is going.”

Confusion like that comes with the territory, said Associate Vice Chancellor for Finance Kevin Seitz.

“University endowments are complicated by nature,” he said. “It’s something that takes some time to understand.”

Some students are more concerned with the environmental sustainability of the industries tied up in the endowment’s investments, said Stewart Boss, events coordinator for the UNC Sierra Student Coalition.

“We want the University to drop its investments in coal,” said Boss, who is also a columnist for The Daily Tar Heel.

Katie Orndahl, Sierra Student Coalition media coordinator, said she wants more accountability in how the money is allocated.

Student Body Vice President Rachel Myrick said the goals of advocacy groups are admirable, but she has broader aims.

“This conversation is going to keep coming up in different forms,” she said. “Student government is trying to figure out ways to engage students in a longer-term period.”

Senior Writer Paula Seligson contributed reporting.

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