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​Harvard’s Embarrassing Endowment Problem - Maybe Let Zuckerberg Handle It?

Harvard. It’s a name known round the world. Mention to a random person in the Middle East that you went there and they will look at you in awe. I know this because I’ve done it.

First, they will ask “Did you know Mark Zuckerberg?” After telling them that I didn’t, they will frown. They are always disappointed by this answer. They think anyone who attended Harvard between 2000 and 2010 must have spent a night or two hashing out Facebook’s code on the dorm windows, just like in The Social Network! Alas, that is not the case. “Well, you must be rich anyway,” they’ll say, but they’ll still seem a little bit let down.

So, to say Harvard has cache is an understatement. They have used this remarkable brand to build up the biggest endowment of any university in the world, at thirty eight billion dollars. Unfortunately, they are having a problem growing their endowment at an acceptable rate.

The Harvard endowment growth of just 5.8% lagged well behind other elite institutions such as Stanford (7%) and MIT (13%.) Some people blame the fact that Harvard uses outside managers, including hedge funds, to manage its nest egg. People are afraid all these outside influences might be more focused on racking up fees than delivering good returns.

Harvard researchers are probably curing cancer as we sit here, but if the university doesn't figure out a better way to manage its endowment it’s in danger of becoming the laughingstock of the Ivy League. I say, let big Zuck handle it! That guy clearly knows how to make money. Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) stock is up 20% over the past year, so the proof is in the pudding.