A new survey finds the average college endowment lost 3.6% of its value last year, the first time they went down in a decade and a half. The stock market’s slide is to blame. The survey was conducted for the National Association of College and University Business Officers. At Grinnell College in Iowa, communications V-P Mickey Munley says the school’s been fortunate to buck that trend. The endowment’s just over a billion dollars, and last year it recorded a 24-percent return on investment. Munley is stingy with details of the winning strategy, but says it’s part of a larger plan. He will say the school’s strategy concentrates on a few investments that it knows very well. Also, Grinnell had no money in Enron stocks. But Munley says the school has also seen “down” years for its investments. Two years ago when most everyone else’s accounts were on the rise, Grinnell had a “negative return” of fifteen percent. But Munley says the whole point is to take a more long-range approach. Munley says when you evaluate a college, the endowment’s performance should not be one of your top criteria. Munley says a college endowment provides a permanent financial base, but it can’t be really compared to an individual’s retirement fund.