Rider sheds partial light on endowment 

By Amethyst Martinez

Universities across the nation have begun releasing their investment policies and endowment details in an effort for more transparency, typically amid calls from college communities holding institutions accountable or student demands for schools to divest from politically fraught holdings. 

Rider has not faced many calls to release investment policies and endowment information, leaving the school’s multimillion dollar investments a secret to the public — until now.


Rider’s endowment, which is small in comparison to older and more prestigious universities, sat at around $63 million, according to its 2023 investment year-end report. 

This number may sound big, but many universities have much, much more. 

Princeton University, one of Rider’s New Jersey neighbors, has one of the largest endowments in the country, standing at around $34.1 billion at the end of the 2023 fiscal year that ended in June, according to the school. Harvard University has a $45.5 billion endowment, making it the wealthiest higher education institution in the world. 

University endowments are donations from a multitude of people in the university community, such as alumni, Board members and even staffers. These endowments are then invested into companies, organizations and funds around the world in order to achieve long-standing financial viability. 

A portion of the annual returns – money earned from its investments – can be used by the school for expenses, typically for scholarships at Rider. Donors have the option to say exactly where they want the money to go – specific departments, infrastructure, etc. – or allow it to be used freely by the university. 

James Hartman, Rider’s chief financial officer, said that over 400 individual endowments were a part of the university’s holdings, with most tied to specific purposes at the donor’s discretion. 

He estimated that around 80% is designated specifically for scholarships, with the other 20% earmarked for program and educational support, and then unrestricted funds, which have no conditions attached. Annually, Rider gives around $3 million in endowment returns toward scholarships, he said.

Transparency in higher ed

Until now, Rider’s investment policies have never been publicly released. These policies guide where the endowment assets are invested.

Public calls-to-action for these policies have affected higher education institutions everywhere, with many divesting in certain industries in order to achieve not only accountability, but more money. These industries include gun suppliers, fossil fuels and more. 

Responsible investing has been at the forefront of many investor’s minds as companies and institutions across the world have made changes to their policies due to social justice movements, sticking to their public values and following increased calls for transparency. 

On April 11, more than 200 students attended a rally calling for California’s Pomona College to divest from Israel, according to Inside Higher Ed, a symptom of the ongoing Israel-Hamas War that has caused increased activism on campuses across the United States in opposition to the war.

At Smith College in Massachusetts, students occupied an administrative building for nearly two weeks this spring, after the school’s Board of Trustees rejected a petition to divest from weapons manufacturers supplying Israel’s military, according to local news reports. 

Rider’s policies, which are signed off by the Board of Trustees and implemented by its investment firm, decide important values to the university, such as diversity, equity and inclusion and environmental sustainability. These are examples of “ESG’s,” or environmental, social and governance considerations, which investors can use in the process of picking where money goes. 

Hirtle, Callaghan & Co, Rider’s current investment firm which manages the endowment, created an ESG profile of the university in 2023, where Rider received a score of AA, the benchmark sitting at BBB. One of the investment profile’s greatest strengths is low carbon risk, which is 49.45% less than the benchmark. 

Currently, Rider’s Board of Trustees Investment Subcommittee is expected to propose new investment policies – possibly containing more emphasis on socially-responsible investing – this summer, according to university leaders. Rider’s current investment policy focuses strictly on growth and diversification, and does not explicitly promote ESG or ethical investments. 

Why now?

The university released the investment profiles, policies and endowment information to a spring semester In-Depth Reporting class, a year after the initial request by a faculty member of the Department of Communication, Journalism and Media for a class project.

Hartman said that last year wasn’t a “good time,” and the

and the administration and the university’s new investment firm couldn’t pull it all together then. This year, however, proved different.

“We thought, ‘Why not,’” said Hartman. “And a lot of schools like Rider, they just don’t put it out there. … It’s been a culture over time, unless you’re really proud of your endowment.”

Over the last semester, the class scoured through documents, where stipulations were created by the Board of Trustees on how the information could be used, along with who could view it. The actual investment documents, which show Rider’s complete portfolio of holdings, along with full valuations of assets and the percentages of endowment allocations, were unable to be taken out of the classroom, and promised to be destroyed at the end of the semester. 

Other documents, such as the school’s investment policy and ESG profile, could not be downloaded by students, shown to anyone else or reproduced. 

Mark Nurse, a Board member who has a career in investing, stated the risk of releasing this information could lead to “losing a competitive edge.”

“I don’t think we were keeping it confidential to concerned parties. …We still issue a 990 [federal tax document] every year, which is available to the broad public to see how the university is doing,” said Nurse. “This is a very competitive business, portfolio management.” 

Hirtle, Callaghan & Co. investment manager Garrett Wilson agreed with Nurse’s point, stating that only releasing overviews is important in investing. 

“They give you that 30,000-foot look, which is very helpful for people to understand how things are invested,” said Wilson. “As soon as you go into more detail, you’re always going to have someone passing opinions about that. And so I think it’s important to make sure you deliver what’s necessary.”

Although Rider has stayed quiet on where it has invested in the past, the school is now ready to be more open, according to Rider President Gregory Dell’Omo. 

“It’s an evolutionary process,” said Dell’Omo. “I think that’s one of the reasons why we agreed to do this course. … Our Board, we’re moving in a direction to talk about it a little bit more openly. And that wasn’t because they wanted to hide it. It’s just that our endowment has been such a small amount.”

In-Depth Reporting students will be publishing more endowment articles for their semester-long projects on the class website next week. 

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