|Written by Ted Craig, on 07-01-2009 07:07 AM
I read an article the other day about Cooper Union, a New York private college that is expanding while other schools make cuts. Those downsizing institutions include Harvard, which just a few years ago gave other schools serious endowment envy, and Middlebury College, which was ranked the second most expensive school in America. Cooper Union's tuition? Zero.
How did Cooper Union avoid the struggles of these other schools? By shifting its endowment to low-risk investments three years ago. The return was less as well, of course, but sometimes it's better to gain little than to lose big.
Leverage was the scourge of this last decade. It affected not only banks, but colleges, law firms, and even dealerships. All those big lines of credit were great until they were gone. Now those stores that counted on easy money are shutting their doors while the dealers who depended on organic growth thrive. Credit will loosen eventually, but let's hope everybody's learned a lesson from the turmoil of the past year.