Some of the nation’s leading universities are trying to sell chunks of their portfolios privately as their endowments swoon with the markets, reports the New York Times. Among institutional investors, school endowments aggressively embraced private equity, real estate partnerships, venture capital, commodities, hedge funds, and other so-called alternative investments over the last few years. Endowments with more than $1 billion in assets reported 35 percent of their holdings in these types of investments on average last year, a much greater portion than big public pension funds, for example. Now, they are balking. The value of some of these investments has fallen, and they are not easily shed because there is no public market for them, as there is for stocks. Worse, private equity and venture capital funds require investors to put up additional capital over time. Cash may now be in short supply at schools facing budget pressures and investment losses. The University of Virginia, which has a $4.2 billion endowment, posted a letter on its web site saying that it might explore the sale of some of its private equity holdings and would sell hundreds of millions of dollars in other assets. Harvard, the granddaddy of endowments with $36.9 billion at midyear, is marketing its $1.5 billion stake in venture capital and buyout funds. And the $6.5 billion Duke University Endowment is weighing the sale of $200 million of its stake in private equity…

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