| Press Releases

Commonfund Study of Independent Schools Released for FY2023

February 26, 2024 |
2 minute read
Commonfund Study of Independent Schools Released for FY2023

Independent Schools Report 9.2% Return on Endowment Assets for FY2023,
Marking Reversal from Last Year’s -11.3% Loss

Returns Rebound; New Gifts to Endowments Fall, Responsible Investing Tempers

WILTON, Conn., February 26, 2024 — Institutions participating in the Commonfund Benchmarks Study® of Independent Schools for the 2023 fiscal year reported an average annual return of 9.2 percent on their endowment assets. The average one-year return increased by 20.5 percentage points from -11.3 percent posted in fiscal 2022. This marks another year of dramatic swings in returns, following fiscal year 2022 when returns fell by 37 percentage points—the largest year-over-year reversal since the study commenced for the 2005 fiscal year. (All returns are reported net of fees. Fiscal year 2023 covers the period from July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023, and coincides with the budget year of most independent schools.)

Positive one-year returns were a welcome change from the prior year, but longer-term portfolio gains are of primary importance for the financial health and sustainability of perpetual institutions. Returns in FY2023 boosted 3-year average returns from 5.5 percent in FY2022 to 7.1 percent in FY2023. Meanwhile, five-year average returns of 6.0 percent were on par with last year’s report, and 10-year average returns were 6.7 percent for this year’s participating schools, compared with 8.1 percent average 10-year returns posted by last year’s cohort. The drop in 10 year returns could potentially be attributed to a positive year being dropped out of the 10-year calculation coupled with the inclusion of fiscal year 2022’s low performance.

George Suttles, Executive Director of Commonfund Institute, and Jeffrey Shields, President and CEO of NBOA, noted in a joint statement that investment returns have been volatile in recent years, but this year was a turn in favor of independent school endowments. “After last year’s study reported that independent schools saw negative 11.3 percent returns, many were back on track in fiscal year 2023, posting 9.2 percent gains on endowment assets. These gains secured higher 3-year returns of 7.1 percent on average across responding schools as longer-term returns held steady. This demonstrates that despite fluctuations year to year, independent schools can be confident that their strategies are in line with the purpose of perpetuity.”

Two hundred ten independent schools representing roughly $12.7 billion in combined endowment assets provided data for the Study. Data gathered in the Study are aggregated for all participants and, for closer analysis, are segmented into three size cohorts: institutions with endowment assets over $50 million; those with assets between $10 and $50 million; and those with assets under $10 million. Institutions participating in the Study comprise day schools, boarding schools and schools that are a combination of both, and some analysis in the study segments data by day and schools with boarding. Independent schools are private, nonprofit institutions enrolling students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. In the U.S., approximately 10 percent of the student population attend an independent school, according to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS).  

Commonfund conducts the annual study of independent school endowment management practices and policies in conjunction with NBOA: Business Leadership for Independent Schools, the only national nonprofit association focused exclusively on fostering financial and operational excellence in independent PK-12 schools. 

Download the full press release.


Request your copy of the CSIS for FY2023

Media Contacts  

Emily Roy
Prosek Partners

Cecily Garber
Associate Vice President, Communications and Member Relations


Commonfund Institute


Commonfund Institute


Certain information contained herein has been obtained from or is based on third-party sources and, although believed to be reliable, has not been independently verified. Such information is as of the date indicated, if indicated, may not be complete, is subject to change and has not necessarily been updated. No representation or warranty, express or implied, is or will be given by The Common Fund for Nonprofit Organizations, any of its affiliates or any of its or their affiliates, trustees, directors, officers, employees or advisers (collectively referred to herein as “Commonfund”) or any other person as to the accuracy or completeness of the information in any third-party materials. Accordingly, Commonfund shall not be liable for any direct, indirect or consequential loss or damage suffered by any person as a result of relying on any statement in, or omission from, such third-party materials, and any such liability is expressly disclaimed.

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To the extent views presented forecast market activity, they may be based on many factors in addition to those explicitly stated herein. Forecasts of experts inevitably differ. Views attributed to third-parties are presented to demonstrate the existence of points of view, not as a basis for recommendations or as investment advice. Market and investment views of third-parties presented herein do not necessarily reflect the views of Commonfund, any manager retained by Commonfund to manage any investments for Commonfund (each, a “Manager”) or any fund managed by any Commonfund entity (each, a “Fund”). Accordingly, the views presented herein may not be relied upon as an indication of trading intent on behalf of Commonfund, any Manager or any Fund.

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