Vassar College Financial Report Vassar College Financial Report Graphic: Bank Icon Vassar College Financial Report
June 30, 2014 and 2013

Summary

FINANCIAL RESULTS FOR VASSAR COLLEGE in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2014, were quite positive, with significant growth in net assets driven mainly by a strong return on endowment assets.

The College has undertaken several new initiatives to build off of this strength, with a goal of positioning Vassar even more strongly in the coming years.

  • The College offered a retirement incentive program to more than 230 administrative and staff employees this past summer, with 68 individuals accepting the offer. Positions will be vacated by December 31, 2014, and the expectation is that a net permanent savings of as many as 30 full-time-equivalent positions can be achieved by restructuring functions to enhance efficiencies. The resulting operating savings from this program will fully achieve the long-term goals of the integrated financial model approved by the Board of Trustees.
  • The campus store was moved from the basement of the College Center to the former Juliet Theater space in Arlington this past summer. This move, along with the addition of a new restaurant, BurgerFi, to another portion of the Juliet building, has brought new life to the Arlington district and strengthens Vassar’s connection to the broader community. The move also frees up valuable space in the center of campus and will allow Vassar to reconfigure the College Center to better serve campus life.
  • Construction of the "bridge building" in the new Integrated Science Center continues apace, with an opening anticipated late in 2015. Complete renovations of Sanders Physics and New England buildings, which are also part of the Center, were completed this past summer, with both spaces open for fall classes.
  • The College’s long-term investment pool, in which endowed funds are invested, earned a total return of 15.6% in the 2013/14 fiscal year, compared to a return of 12.2% in 2012/13. The College’s reliance upon these capital assets to support operations requires a steady draw from this pool. The net result of the total return on investments, the addition of $33.5 million in gifts and other additions to endowment, and the withdrawal of $52.0 million in support of operations resulted in an increase of 10.9% in the ending value of long-term investments on the balance sheet.

Table 1 portrays some of the key measures of Vassar’s operations, assets and liabilities over the last decade, providing context for the 2013/14 year in review from a financial perspective.

Vassar’s financial statements for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2014 have been audited by KPMG, and appear as a separate section in this report titled Financial Statements. A digital copy of the statements is also available from the Finance and Administration web page.

TABLE 1: KEY FINANCIAL/OPERATING INDICATORS

  2003/04 2008/09 2013/14
Endowment market value $ 608.3 mm $ 658.6 mm $ 974.2 mm
Endowment per student $ 254,981 $ 277,235 $ 403,226
Value of debt $ 79.4 mm $ 124.0 mm $ 252.8 mm
             
Total private gifts received $ 31.2 mm $ 35.5 mm $ 41.3 mm
             
Comprehensive fee for attendance $ 37,030 $ 49,250 $ 59,070
Average cost of educating each student $ 51,855 $ 69,017 $ 71,455
             
Vassar-funded student grant aid $ 21.4 mm $ 36.3 mm $ 57.9 mm
Percent of students with Vassar grants   48%   46%   56%
             
Undergraduate enrollment (average FTE)   2,386   2,376   2,418
Student-faculty ratio (fall)   9.0   7.6   8.0
             
Library volumes   878,177   967,820   1,024,638
             
Applications for admission   6,193   7,577   7,784
Percent of applicants offered admission   28.7%   24.7%   23.5%
Yield on admission offers   36.8%   35.2%   36.3%
             
Graduation rate (6-yr)   86.5%   92.0%   91.8%
Financial statements spending $ 123.7 mm $ 163.9 mm $ 172.7 mm
Junior Year Abroad students   134   152   127
Financial Aid students   1,220   1,171   1,427

Financial Assets: Long-Term Investments and Short-Term Liquidity

The endowed funds of the College are invested primarily through a unified pool of investments under the supervision of the Investments Committee of the Board of Trustees. Vassar’s long-term objective is to earn a total return (income and appreciation of principal) equal to the average annual appropriation to support current activities (targeted at 5% on average) plus long-term inflation of 2 to 3% per year to preserve the purchasing power of the endowment over time. The College’s strategy has been to remain fully diversified in its core endowment investments (Figure 1), a strategy that has served the College particularly well in the last decade given the high levels of volatility in some asset classes. Nevertheless, the College has not been immune to the effects of the falling markets such as during the 2008/09 fiscal year, as is evident in Figure 2, which illustrates the change in endowment market value over the past twenty years.

Support from endowment is vital to Vassar’s operations, with annual income from endowment providing approximately 32% of annual operating funds. Over the past 20 years, the endowment provided more than $682 million in distributions for College operations while also growing significantly, from a market value of just over $316 million on June 30, 1994 to nearly $1 billion today. These figures underscore the tremendous value that endowment provides to Vassar, both now and in perpetuity.

FIGURE 2: ENDOWMENT MARKET VALUE, JUNE 30

On June 30, 2014, the market value of the endowment had risen to $974.8 million, the net result of an investment return, net of fees to investment managers, of 15.6% for the fiscal year, appropriations for current use of $52.0 million, and gifts and additions of $33.6 million. The total return of 15.6% exceeded the weighted benchmark return of 14.1%, which incorporates the returns available in the asset classes represented in the Vassar portfolio. Table 2 summarizes the performance of the endowment over one, three, five, ten, and twenty-year time periods, compared to the Vassar composite portfolio benchmark. Figure 3 shows ten-year performance by asset class relative to the specific benchmark return for each.

FIGURE 3: 10-Year Asset Class & Benchmark Performance

The College also acts as trustee for deferred gifts and contracts that are invested to provide income streams to beneficiaries during their lifetimes, with the remainder passing to the College as a charitable donation. The investment pool devoted to deferred gifts totaled $28.3 million as of June 30, 2014. These assets are managed separately from the endowment under contract with Kaspick & Company, a leading provider of deferred giving services. The total program of deferred giving assets earned an aggregate return of 15.6% in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2014, although returns varied for participants depending upon the objectives of each trust or contract. Over the past ten years, Kaspick’s stewardship of Vassar’s trust assets has earned a total return of 7.6% per year on the total pool of deferred giving assets.

In addition to the long-term investment of the endowment and deferred gift assets, the College also manages operating cash reserves and funds held in advance of investment in the physical plant. These financial assets are invested at low risk, primarily to maintain the principal value of the funds prior to use and ensure liquidity. Primary vehicles include high-quality money market funds at HSBC, Merrill Lynch, and First Niagara. Over the course of the fiscal year, monthly balances in these vehicles fluctuated from approximately $16 million to nearly $46 million, ending on June 30 at $23.7 million, fairly typical for the College’s short-term liquidity.

TABLE 2: AVERAGE ANNUAL COMPOUND RETURNS

  Vassar College Investment Pool Portfolio Benchmark Relative
1 year   15.6%   14.1%   1.5%
3 year   9.9%   8.8%   1.1%
5 year   12.6%   11.1%   1.5%
10 year   8.9%   7.8%   1.1%
20 year   9.7%   8.7%   0.9%

Operating Results

Student enrollment was on target, with 2,450 full-time-equivalent students enrolled on campus and an average of 127 full-time-equivalent students enrolled in study abroad each semester. Overall, net operating revenue decreased by 9% compared to the prior year, while operating expenses increased by about 2%.

(in thousands)

(in thousands)

Figure 4 depicts the sources of operating revenue, with 54.2% of net operating revenue provided by tuition, room, board, and other fees paid by students and their families, up a bit from last year. Another 32.4% was provided by investment return on endowment, also up a bit from last year, while private gifts and grants provided 7.1%. Federal and State grants for student financial aid, academic programming, and faculty research provide only 1.3% of total revenue, and the remaining 5.0% came from fee-for-service activities, summer programs, nursery school tuition and miscellaneous other sources. The share of revenue provided by student charges has declined over the last few years as a result of adopting need-blind admissions and aid policies just prior to the major recession that began in the spring of 2008. The share of revenue provided by endowment and gifts has increased to maintain critical operations and support increased demand for financial aid based on demonstrated need. It is anticipated that revenue from student charges net of financial aid will stabilize and grow slightly.

Figure 5 breaks down the $172.7 million recorded as operating expense in the 2013/14 statement of activities by program, with employment and plant operating costs distributed to each programmatic area. The current year allocation of expenditures is generally consistent with the prior year. Over 56% of expenses are dedicated to the academic enterprise (instruction, research and academic support). As a residential college, Vassar also expends 12% of operating resources on auxiliary enterprises, including residence hall and campus dining operations, and 10% on student services (admissions, student health services, counseling, athletics, and career services). Central administrative operations – such as accounting services, communications, fundraising, security services, information technology support, and other central costs – accounted for approximately 22% of total expenditure in 2013/14.

Compensation continues to be the single largest type of expenditure at the College, illustrating the labor-intensive nature of the small classes and intensive faculty focus on teaching that are Vassar’s hallmark. Vassar strives to maintain highly competitive salaries, wages and benefits to attract and retain skilled individuals in all aspects of operations, notably the outstanding faculty who are central to the College’s academic mission. Thus, over 61% of annual operating costs in 2013/14 was devoted to compensation. As noted above, an early retirement incentive program was offered to eligible employees and will result in a net reduction in staffing by January 2015.

Financial Support from Alumnae/i and Friends

Vassar recorded $30 million in outright gifts and pledges from alumnae/i, parents, friends, and private foundations during 2013/14, compared to $71.8 million recorded in 2012/13, the final year of the Vassar 150: World Changing capital campaign. Private gifts and grants for operating purposes amounted to $11.4 million, a portion of which is temporarily restricted for future use, while private gifts and grants for non-operating or capital purposes came in at about $18.5 million, of which $17.9 million was restricted by donors for endowment creation, and a small amount temporarily restricted for investment in facilities or equipment and the creation of deferred gifts. The College also received artwork valued at $603,000, which was added to the outstanding collection of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center.

Debt and Credit Rating

On June 30, 2014, the College had $252.8 million in debt outstanding, all in general obligation tax-exempt revenue bonds, issued through either the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York or the Dutchess County Local Development Corporation. Interest rates on these bonds range between 4% and 5%. Moody’s Investors Service evaluated the College’s credit in association with the last issue as Aa2, with a stable outlook. Standard & Poor’s assigned an AA- rating with a stable outlook in November 2012, based primarily on the reliance upon endowment support that had increased during the recession, when the College held fast to need-blind admission and need-based financial aid policies. This rating was affirmed by Standard & Poor’s when new Vassar debt was issued in June 2013.

Physical Assets: Facilities, Equipment and Collections

During the 2013/14 fiscal year, a total of $57 million was invested in facilities, campus improvements, equipment and collections, including $1.5 million in library acquisitions and approximately $700,000 in computer technology to support the campus network and academic computing. Several of the major capital improvements taking place on campus are part of multi-year projects funded by tax-exempt bonds issued in 2010 and 2013. The College also benefits from generous donations from alumnae/i and friends who provide invaluable assistance in maintaining Vassar’s historic and distinctive campus. Highlights of work in 2013/14 include:

  • Academic facilities: Complete renovations of both Sanders Physics and New England buildings were largely done during the 2013/14 fiscal year, with both projects completed this past summer to allow the two facilities to open for the fall semester. These projects are two important components of the larger science initiative, which includes construction of the new “bridge building” (currently underway) and the eventual removal of Mudd Chemistry Building.
  • Residential facilities: Major interior renovations took place at Strong House, including new bathrooms, a new elevator, and improved egress pathways.
  • Campus infrastructure: Partial roof replacements were done at the College Center and Students' Building, and an additional phase of multi-year gas line improvements was completed.
  • Equipment: Vassar continues to invest significantly in technology to support educational programs and administration, capitalizing approximately $1.8 million in 2013/14 in academic equipment, computing and network equipment, office equipment and furnishings.
  • Collections: The College invested $1.5 million in 2013/14, adding 9,770 volumes to the College Libraries. In addition, the College acquired artwork valued at $603,000, to be added to the extensive collections of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center.
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