Financial Resources and Business Operations

The university's endowment of $1.485 billion ranks high among liberal arts colleges nationally; it is now 25th among all American colleges and universities. The strategic plan, "A Liberal Arts Education for the 21st Century," was formally launched in 2007 and sought to increase the endowment substantially, primarily by creating additional endowments for financial aid and faculty salaries. A conservative approach to endowment drawdown has served the university well in a fluctuating economy. The endowment spending formula calls for spending to increase by inflation plus 1 percent year over year, tested against a 5 percent spending-level cap. In addition, a plan was implemented in 2015-16 to assist the School of Law in its transition to stabilize enrollment and financial structure in the face of significant changes in legal education. As part of that transition plan, the level of spending from Law-School-only endowments will be increased to 7.5 percent for the next three years.

Alumni have traditionally provided generous support each year. The recent alumni participation rates in annual giving are more than 50 percent of the undergraduate alumni. Even though the participation rate for law alumni was 33 percent in 2014-15, that represents the fifth highest participation rate for law schools nationally. The Annual Fund complements tuition revenue and endowment spending toward an annual operating budget, which totals $134.5 million for 2015-16.

On June 30, 2015, Washington and Lee completed its historic seven-year campaign, Honor Our Past, Build Our Future: The Campaign for Washington and Lee, announcing that it had raised $542.5 million, exceeding the goal of $500 million by eight percent. The campaign is believed to be the second largest to date by a liberal arts college.

Designed to meet major objectives of the current strategic plan, the campaign has sought to:

  • Recruit and support students with exceptional personal and intellectual characteristics;
  • Recruit, retain and develop exceptionally qualified faculty and staff committed to the values of the university;
  • Enhance academic programs that foster learning, engagement and character;
  • Care for its historic campus and shape a campus for the 21st century;
  • Provide financial flexibility by sustaining the Annual
    Fund.

The campaign secured more than $156 million for student financial aid; resulted in the first named deanship, 20 new named, endowed professorships (15 for existing lines) and 10 named, endowed term professorships recognizing outstanding mid-level faculty; and supported an increase in faculty compensation to the mean of W&L's peer institutions. Annual Fund contributions increased by 46 percent during the campaign and exceeded goals in each year except 2009, reaching a record $10 million in 2014-15. Annual undergraduate participation in giving increased from 49.9 percent to more than 54 percent, and 77 percent of solicitable undergraduate alumni and 63 percent of law alumni made at least one gift during the campaign.