The nation's 4-year not-for-profit colleges and universities collectively held more than $400 billion in endowments in 2008. Some institutions' large endowments coupled with the high and growing cost of college have led to questions about institutions' use of endowments. This mandated report describes (1) the size and change in value of endowments over the last 20 years, (2) the extent and manner to which endowment funds are restricted for financial aid and other purposes, and (3) institutions' distribution of endowment assets. GAO obtained and analyzed data on college and university endowments from the Department of Education and other sources. Because industry-wide data were not available on endowment restrictions and distributions, GAO selected 10 colleges and universities for case studies. The case-study institutions were selected to include a mix of public, private, large, small, and minority-serving institutions. Information from these schools cannot be generalized to all U.S. colleges and universities.
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