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Harvard University announced Thursday that its endowment grew by $11.3 billion to a record $53.2 billion during the fiscal year ending in June, a year-over-year increase of 33.6%.
The announcement comes after Harvard, which runs the nation’s largest private university endowment, defeated a lawsuit from students who took umbrage with the school’s decision to not offer partial tuition refunds when it moved to online-only classes during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The fiscal year 2021 was an extraordinary year. Public and private markets both continued their strong performance, which allowed the endowment to not only increase its distribution to the University but also continue to grow during this critical time when pandemic-related financial pressures challenge all of higher education,” Harvard Management Company Chief Executive N.P. Narvekar said in a report Thursday.
Experts speculated during the first months of the pandemic that the crisis would wreak financial havoc on Harvard, according to The Harvard Crimson.
The Harvard endowment distributed just over $2 billion to the university during the 2021 fiscal year, helping the university to end the year with a $283 million surplus, the Crimson added.
Narvekar said that the endowment’s 33.6% return for 2021 was “tremendous,” but he noted that its conservative investment philosophy resulted in a lower rate of return in comparison to its peers.
Harvard came under fire from former President Donald Trump in April 2020 after it was revealed the school was set to receive over $8.6 million in taxpayer-funded coronavirus stimulus funding despite controlling an endowment of $40 billion at the time.
“Harvard’s going to pay back the money,” Trump said. “They have one of the largest endowments anywhere in the country, maybe in the world, I guess, and they’re going to pay back that money.”
Harvard responded to the criticism with an April 2020 statement saying the school would not accept coronavirus relief funding. The university has since rejected two additional rounds of stimulus funding authorized by Trump and President Joe Biden.