Yale Endowment Drops…How Much?

Oh, the joy of headlines, especially when they’re about shrinking endowments at Ivy League universities. The New York Times trumpets the headline, “Yale’s Endowment Drops 13.4%,” while The Wall Street Journal announces, “Yale to Trim Budget as Its Endowment Falls 25%.”

What confusion; I’m sure Yale alums are happy to know that their alma mater’s endowment has dropped…some percentage amount.

The explanation of the discrepancy comes further into the Journal article:

From June 30 through Oct. 31, [Yale President Richard] Levin said the value of marketable securities had fallen 13%…But the Yale endowment is heavily invested in illiquid securities, such as private-equity funds and real estate that are difficult to value. The 25% decline takes into account an estimate of those securities’ decline, as well, the school says.

The Times explains it too:

[Levin] said the value of Yale’s marketable securities had declined 13.4 percent for the first four months of the university’s fiscal year, which started July 1…Taking into account such illiquid assets as real estate aan private equity, he said, the endowment…was down 25 percent.

Still, as far as mismatched headlines go (and as far as headline-only readers are concerned), it’s a surefire way to start rumors of misinformation.

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Jane Kim is a writer in New York.