NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Yeshiva University is reportedly $1 billion in the red, with $500 million in debts and another $500 million in losses with risky investments.
As CBS 2’s Sonia Rincon reported Friday, Yeshiva University lost $100 million to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. But that was apparently only a small part of its severe financial trouble.
“They are a rare university to have their bonds downgraded to junk status, and they have been reported by Moody’s as likely to run out of cash next year if they don’t do drastic changes to turn things around,” said Steven I. Weiss, investigative reporter for The Jewish Channel.
A two-year investigation by Weiss found the university has been pouring money into risky investments such as hedge funds.
“The average school with a $1 billion endowment like they have, had 21.5 percent of their endowment in hedge funds, which means they were more than three times more invested in hedge funds than the average school of their size,” Weiss said.
He says the investment strategy at Yeshiva University got riskier every year in the last decade.
“It’s hard to say exactly what would have happened if they had just maintained the investments that they had in 2002,” Weiss said. “But It certainly seems like they wouldn’t have lost as much money and they wouldn’t have spent as much on the assumption that these investment gains would be there.”
And since 2008, the credit rating service Moody’s has repeatedly downgraded its credit.
Yeshiva University’s main campus is in Washington Heights. The university has been around for more than a century, and it includes the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Benjamin Cardozo Law School.
Some students who spoke to CBS 2 said they haven’t felt any of the effects yet, and expect Yeshiva to get its finances back on track.
“People are going to make mistakes and not all of them are going to be brilliant,” one man said.
“I’m confident that they’ll get things patched up quickly,” added student Nathaniel Ribner.
A university spokesman declined CBS 2’s interview requests, but issued a statement claiming inaccuracies in Weiss’ report. It wasn’t specific.
The university president also posted a blog saying there’s a lot of work to do, but assured students and staff the endowment is, and that the school is committed to long-term success and a turn-around.
The university has done it before. Thirty-five years ago, it was in the middle of another financial crisis and on the brink of bankruptcy. But new leadership took over and it was able to recover and become profitable again.
“This institution is kind of too important to the Jewish community to let it fail, so hopefully the entire Jewish community will come together to be able to figure it out,” said Yeshiva University rabbinical student Sam Ramstein.
The university said a professional investment team is working on the financial issues. The university also said enrollment is up 16 percent in the last two years.
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