The Program for Financial Studies

In 2008, Harvard's endowment fund sustained billions of dollars of losses as worldwide markets plunged. The fund had delivered average annual returns of 15 percent for almost three decades, and the university depended on endowment income for more than one-third of its operating revenue. Harvard's leaders faced immediate questions: How can the university meet its expenses? Which assets, if any, should be liquidated? What changes to the fund's strategy - once considered almost fail-safe - might limit their risks? This case provides extensive background and data on the university and its endowment, and asks students to make decisions about Harvard's financial future.

Case id: 100312
Supplemental Materials: Teaching Note