BOSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)– NEPC, LLC, one of the largest independent, research-driven investment consulting firms, today announced the results of its 2021 Higher Education Survey, which highlights both present concerns and longer-term outlooks for some of the nation’s largest higher ed endowments.

COVID-related concerns are receding, with only 8% indicating concerns about pandemic-related expenses. There is an overall tenor of optimism among higher ed endowments. Only 19% signaled significant concern about inflation and 50% have plans for significant capital expenditures.

Enrollment declines (cited by 62%) are now the top worry for universities in spite of healthy enrollment levels for most universities. 63% reported either no change or an increase in enrollment compared to pre-pandemic levels. Just 10% of respondents reported an enrollment decline of more than 10%. Vaccines continue to be hotly debated, with 53% of respondents requiring students to be vaccinated before returning to campus.

“This time last year, endowments were reeling from the most severe liquidity crisis higher education had faced since the global financial crisis,” said Sam Pollack, Partner and senior member of NEPC’s Endowments and Foundations team. “Today, the numbers tell a very different story. Large university endowments achieved tremendous returns at fiscal year end, in large part due to their strong private market allocations. The challenge for investment teams in 2022 will be maintaining discipline with their spending rates, while making strategic investments in areas that were put on hold at the peak of the liquidity crisis.”

Endowments are also focused on sustainable investing and diversity. 37% cited ESG and impact investing as a priority, and 28% plan to increase engagement with diverse-led and diverse-owned managers. Institutions are more cautious about making Net Zero commitments: 72% do not have Net Zero strategies in place or plans to create one. Tracking diversity efforts also remains a work in progress: 64% do not currently track engagement with diverse managers.

For the full results of NEPC’s 2021 Higher Education Survey, please submit this form.



NEPC is an independent investment consultant and private wealth advisor, serving over 400 retainer clients and $1.4 trillion in total assets. Combining a proprietary research team dedicated to the long-term challenges facing investors with our unique client-centric model, NEPC builds forward-looking investment portfolios for institutional investors and ultra-high-net-worth individuals. To learn more about NEPC, visit

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