Since September, the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) endowment has decreased by 7.71 percent. In the 2011 calendar year, the endowment decreased by a more modest third of a percent.
According to Student Budget Committee (SBC) Chair Cameron Couch ’13, the WSA’s endowment comes from a surplus of SBC funds allocated to student groups that is not spent. At the end of the year, the WSA reassumes this money and places it in the endowment in the hopes of one day decreasing the student activities fee.
The endowment currently contains $238,635.53. The money is split between a number of equity holdings and fixed-income holdings, and a portion is invested in the University endowment. The value of WSA investments in nearly every holding fell this semester. According to WSA President Zachary Malter ’13 in an email to the Argus, the endowment’s shrinkage was reflective of broader market trends.
“The Wesleyan endowment went down, as did many others, so we are pretty much performing at expectation,” Malter said. “And if you look at what I would define as our recent performance, our performance over the past couple years, we have done well above average, and we did particularly well at cushioning ourselves and staving off major losses during the financial crisis when most endowments took a nosedive.”
The goal of the endowment is to gradually decrease the student activities fee to zero, a fee of approximately $300 that is included in every student’s University bill. The fee is given to the SBC and is then allocated to student groups. Couch explained that currently, the endowment is being used to ensure that the fee will never be increased with rising inflation.
According to Couch, the WSA’s next step is to calculate how soon the fee can be decreased in increments until it can be eliminated entirely. This will be determined after winter break.
“We’re going to decide and debate about the worth of the endowment as a whole and what that money would be spent on if we decided not to continue having an endowment,” Couch said. “Assuming we keep it, it will be a fund whose sole purpose is to grow. We’re not at the point where it makes sense to start decreasing the fee.”
Malter encourages students to voice their opinions on the endowment.
“More than anything, I hope that there will be high participation among WSA representatives and other interested students in making decisions regarding the future of the WSA endowment,” Malter wrote.