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Endowments at Tennessee universities had a banner year in 2007, but schools aren't expecting the same rosy gains this year.

Universities have come to count on income from endowment investments, and last year some saw 18 percent returns. But the stock market's recent tumble has lowered their expectations.

Belmont University has felt the market crunch. It received two payments totaling $18 million from a gift first estimated at $25 million from the estate of the late Ed and Bernice Johnson. The money came from stock investments.
Endowments at Tennessee universities had a banner year in 2007, but schools aren't expecting the same rosy gains this year.

Universities have come to count on income from endowment investments, and last year some saw 18 percent returns. But the stock market's recent tumble has lowered their expectations.

Belmont University has felt the market crunch. It received two payments totaling $18 million from a gift first estimated at $25 million from the estate of the late Ed and Bernice Johnson. The money came from stock investments.

Bernie Muller, a nephew of the Johnsons, said, "I don't know what changed. There were a lot of stocks."

The lagging economy could help schools argue against spending a fixed percentage of endowments.

The U.S. Senate Finance Committee has discussed requiring colleges to spend 5 percent of endowments annually to reduce student tuition and fees.

The market shouldn't influence how a school spends its money, because, unlike the market, those expenditures don't fluctuate, says Perry Mehrling, an economics professor at Barnard College in New York.

"They've had many, many fat years where they've not been spending 16 percent," Mehrling said.

"They have a big cushion, and now's the time to spend that cushion." (The Tennessean, Feb. 14, 2008)

The last batch of letters informing 1,500 past and current MTSU students their personal data may have been accessed have been mailed, university officials said.

According to the university, a professor left a laptop containing names and Social Security numbers unattended in the journalism school about three weeks ago. While the laptop was unwatched, an unknown person is believed to have used the machine to send spam e-mails, MTSU spokesman Tom Tozer said.

"Although we have discovered that it was technically possible to access this file containing your personal information, we have no evidence that this file was actually accessed by anyone," the letter to those affected stated. "We are notifying you simply as a precaution."

Tozer said the university had not received any reports of identity theft stemming from the incident.

In the letter, school officials urged students to place a fraud alert on their credit report and gave information about a free service that requests creditors to verify identity before authorizing new accounts.

The loss or theft of personal data such as credit card and Social Security numbers soared to unprecedented levels in 2007, spurred by cyber-security snafus and disappearing laptops. (The Tennessean, Feb. 14, 2008)