In their annual report released earlier this month, the Wellesley College Investment Office reported that the endowment experienced 46.5% growth in the 2021 fiscal year, a record high. This growth added $958 million to the endowment, bringing its value to $3.22 billion as of June 2021. Wellesley has the largest endowment of the Seven Sister Colleges. Smith College, with the second largest endowment, has roughly $2 billion.
Wellesley’s investment portfolio has been traditionally successful and regularly outperforms market averages. Chief Investment Officer Debby Keunster wrote, “Wellesley’s investment returns are in the top quartile of endowments and foundations with portfolios larger than $1 billion over the last 1, 3, 5, 10 and 15 years.”
Endowment spending represents about 40% of Wellesley’s annual operating budget. However, despite the growth there will not be any changes to spending in the near future. The College’s endowment spending is based on a combination of the past few years, meaning that “the impact of a larger endowment will be felt gradually over several years.”
Students are excited about this news, but have some reservations.
“I would like to see the money go towards things that would improve student life on campus. I feel like there is very little transparency as to where the money is going,“ said Shelby Deibler ’24., “It’s great that we have this additional money. But, where is it going to go? Is Wellesley going to become more accessible?”
The best performing part of the portfolio was “Long term-alternatives”, which include, among other things, oil and gas. Wellesley’s investment in fossil fuels has been a source of controversy. While the College halted any new investment in fossil fuels in 2017, the Board rejected student proposals to divest completely. The percentage of the endowment invested in fossil fuels was down this year from 3.7% to 2.9%, but due to the endowment growth, the amount of money invested increased from $84.7 million to $94.5 million.
EnAct, which was at the center of the pushes for divestment in 2019, thinks that the college has a lot further to go “Divesting has the ability to dramatically decrease the carbon footprint of Wellesley College. With other schools like Harvard divesting from fossil fuels, the future is more promising, but we must stay committed and dedicated to reducing our impacts on the environment.”