Mar 15, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Universities begin to pull their Russia investments

University of Michigan's campus
University of Michigan's campus. It was one of several schools to divest from Russia. Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

Colleges around the U.S. are cutting financial and academic ties with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Why it matters: Higher education is just the latest field to distance itself from the country.

Driving the news: The University of Michigan announced on Monday that it would make no further investments in Russia, citing "increasing financial risks associated with these investments," per a statement.

  • The university's president, Mary Sue Coleman, earlier this month condemned the invasion as a "ruthless attack on freedom."
  • Michigan did not specify how much money it had in investments in Russia.

The University of Colorado is also moving to exit from its investment in Russian companies, including $3.5 million in mutual funds.

  • "We are looking for ways to show our support for the people of Ukraine and believe that cutting our investments is the right thing to do," the university's president said.

Yale University, which has the second-largest endowment in the country, pulled millions of dollars of its endowment from Russian investments, the Yale Daily News reports.

  • Yale also did not disclose how much money they had in future holdings with Russia to the Yale Daily News.
  • The move eliminated all of Yale's financial exposure to the country, per the college newspaper.
  • “We are pleased that FTSE has decided to remove Russia from its index, which eliminates the very small passive indirect exposure to Russia that we previously held," Yale University President Peter Salovey told the Yale Daily News.

Harvard University, which has the largest endowment, said it doesn't directly invest in any Russian company.

  • "After a review it was determined that Harvard has no direct holdings with Russian corporations," Harvard spokesperson Jason Newton said in a statement.
  • "Like all investors, we do not have complete transparency into every investment made by third-party managers, but we believe there are no material indirect holdings with Russian corporations," he added.

Several states have also urged their public universities to withdraw their investments from Russia, including Arizona, Virginia, and Ohio, among others.

State of play: Other universities are severing academic ties with Russia.

  • MIT ended its research partnership with Russia, which university President L. Rafael Reif said is a "rejection of the actions of the Russian government in Ukraine."

By the numbers: The University of Colorado said it has less than 0.1% of its investment pool in Russia and 0.25% of its assets under management.

  • Yale at the end of 2021 held $362 million in a Vanguard emerging markets-oriented ETF that had roughly 3% invested in Russia. In 2020, Yale allocated 6.5% of its portfolio to emerging markets, which typically includes Russia, among many other countries, according to the Yale Endowment report.

The bottom line: "These are small but important steps we can take as a university to stand with the people of Ukraine at this hour," said Jack Kroll, chairman of the University of Colorado's Board of Regents.

Go deeper: Which global companies are abandoning Russia, and why

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