Bear market hits WSU scholarship funds

8:45:04 PM CDT - Thursday, March 13, 2003

By Bruce Erickson and Beth Chiles Hershberger

The downturn in financial markets over the last few years will cause the WSU Foundation to reduce payouts from its endowment funds by about $2.1 million next year.

The WSU Foundation has total assets of more than $116 million, including the WSU art collection, real estate and funds invested in a diverse range of investment vehicles managed by professional fund managers. It annually pays out more than $4.6 million to the university, primarily in the form of student scholarships, building maintenance, equipment purchases and endowed faculty positions.

The payout reduction will apply only to endowed funds, which are generally created to support a particular purpose, such as a scholarship fund, in perpetuity, according to Elizabeth King, executive director of the Foundation and WSU's vice president for university advancement.

King said Wichita State also receives an average of $8 million a year in "current gifts" that are largely designated by donors for specific spending on current projects, such as the renovation of the Charles Koch Arena or to fund ongoing scholarships. Designated gifts for current purposes will be paid out in full according to the donor's intent, King said.

"We recognize the frustration of this situation at a time when other funding for higher education is being reduced," King said.

"We want to assure donors that we are responding in a fiscally conservative manner so that we preserve the value of their endowments. We want our donors to know that their gifts will continue to benefit students in perpetuity, as they originally intended when they made their gifts."

In spite of the market's downturn, King said, "the total value of the WSU Foundation's pooled endowment fund remains above the original value of the cumulative value of the original gifts made by our donors."

Officials of university foundations across the country are taking similar steps, King said.

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