Bowdoin's endowment has increased for the sixth-straight year?though not by very much.
During the last fiscal year, which ended on June 30, the endowment earned a 1.3 percent return, raising its value to $831 million, from $827 million last year.
Although the endowment continues to grow, the figure represents a significant slowdown from the 2007 fiscal year, when the endowment brought in a 24.4 percent return.
In the face of a tumultuous economy, President Barry Mills said that Bowdoin is "very stable."
"The challenge, of course, is that we're not going to see, and haven't seen, the 20 percent return on our endowment," Mills said.
"With those kinds of returns, we'll have to be very careful so that we don't [become overextended]," he added.
Mills said that the "rapid change" the College is experiencing?including new faculty positions, the replacement of loans with grants in financial aid, and the current construction projects?underscores the College's need to be careful with spending.
"My challenge is to be very prudent as to what we choose to do in the future as these markets work themselves out," Mills said. "This is a difficult time, and I'm very confident in the College and the leadership we have."
Senior Vice President for Investments Paula Volent said that the current state of the economy will present both challenges, as well as opportunities.
"We're long-term investors, so we don't look at it day by day," Volent said. "In the long term, there will be some incredible investment opportunities."
BOWDOIN EARNS 'B' FROM SEI
In the latest "Sustainability Report Card" released by the Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI), Bowdoin has upped its overall grade from a "B-" to a "B."
The College earned straight "A's" in the categories of administration, climate change and energy, food and recycling, and green building. For transportation the grade remained a "B."
Bowdoin did improve upon last year's grades in investing and the endowment. For "investment priorities," the mark rose from a "C" to a "B," and for "shareholder engagement," it increased from an "F" to a "D." However, the mark for "transparency" remained an "F."
According to SEI Executive Director Mark Orlowski, in 2007 Bowdoin did not return the portion of the survey pertaining to investment and the endowment, which resulted in the failing grades in those categories in last year's report.
Orlowski attributed the improved "investment priorities" grade to the fact that the College is exploring holdings in renewable energy funds. The "D" in "shareholder engagement" stems from guidelines Bowdoin gives to its fund managers that guide proxy voting, a form of shareholder activism.
Mills downplayed the ratings.
"I don't pay much attention to [the ratings]," he said. "If I spent my time worrying about every rating Bowdoin has?it's not the way we operate the College. I'm not really interested in the ranking. It's irrelevant to me," Mills said.
As for transparency, Mills said that the College is "appropriately transparent."
The report card's top-ranked schools include Middlebury and Carleton, which both received "A-'s." Maine peers Colby and Bates also received "B's", with similar grades in "investment priorities" and "shareholder engagement."