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Universities and non-profits get OK to spend more of endowment funds

Wisconsin universities and other non-profit groups can now spend more of their endowment funds.

Gov. Jim Doyle signed a bill this week that lets charitable groups tap into the original amounts of money donated for things like scholarships.

Until now, only interest and dividends count be spent from those accounts.

But the recession has cut many of Wisconsin's private and community endowment funds by up to 40 percent in the last year while the needs which are met by those funds have not gone down.

University of Wisconsin students are among those who have had to settle for less because of the funding drop. In fact, the UW System's trust funds had to suspend all their payments in February because the university foundation's endowment had dropped so low.

Marquette said its endowment was close to his original amount in February, but it has since recovered.

Still, school officials say the new law will give them more flexibility in future downturns.

Forty-one other states have made similar changes in the last three years and others are considering it.