Nary a day goes by without Google gracing the headlines in some manner. Now Google (GOOG) is being credited with swelling the endowments of some of the most well-funded universities in the country.
John Hechinger in the Wall Street Journal reports that Stanford University’s endowment leaped to third place on the list of the wealthiest endowments due in part to the performance of Google stock. A number of the top endowments have been investing in venture capital, in its many forms, for quite some time. This is leading to a two-tiered system of higher education with haves and have-nots.
Stanford’s achievement illustrates a great divide in higher education that may only grow wider. Elite schools, already among the nation’s richest charitable institutions, are now increasingly able to pair stellar investment returns and wealthy alumni to build war chests that enable them to hire away top professors and give the most generous financial-aid packages to coveted students. The big risk: The college education available to most in the U.S. could end up weaker, especially in relative terms.
Part of this simply comes down to scale. The smaller schools do not have the means to get involved in the high profile venture capital funds. While there are some pooled investment vehicles available to smaller schools they are unlikely to match the performance of direct investments.
Not surprisingly these returns have attracted a gush of money into venture capital coffers. Jonathan Matsey in the Wall Street Journal reports that venture capitalists have poured more money into investments since the high watermark of 2001. A larger amount of this capital is being put into later stage investments.
Whether this is a sign of the so-called ‘savings glut’ is up for debate. We have been reporting the issues surrounding the hedge fund boom. Only time will tell whether the venture capital industry will suffer another hangover like the first Internet boom.