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[Excerpt] Endowments are stocks of financial and real assets that are held by universities to generate income for both current and future operations. “True Endowments” are assets that at the time they were initially given to the university were specified by the donor to be held by the university in perpetuity. Hence over time only the cumulative sum of the income plus capital gains that they have generated for the university can be spent by the university. When endowment values are publicly reported by universities they usually include “funds functioning as endowments”; these are funds that the university has decided to treat as if they were endowments, but if the needs of the university ever required that the principle of these funds be spent it is free to do so. On June 30, 2008, about one third of Cornell’s endowment was actually funds functioning as endowment.


Suggested Citation
Ehrenberg, R.G. (2009). Demystifying endowments [Electronic version]. Retrieved [insert date], from Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations site:

Required Publisher Statement
Published by the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute, Cornell University.