Smart stock-market investing and, in some cases, pumped-up fund-raising efforts helped six Chicago-area colleges and universities beat the national average in boosting their endowments, according to a report released this week.

College endowments’ investment return rates nationwide jumped an average 11.7 percent in the 12 months that ended June 30, primarily because of a healthy stock market that sent investment returns soaring, according to the report that tallied endowment values at 835 U.S. colleges and universities.

The increase helped schools rebound from an average 0.3 percent loss in fiscal 2012, according to the Commonfund Institute and the National Association of College and University Business Officers, which compiled the information.

Local college endowments beating the national average for school returns were: Elgin Community College Foundation (up 31.44 percent to $4.47 million); Moody Bible Institute (up 15.81 percent to $43.62 million); Loyola University of Chicago (up 13.68 percent to $463.86 million); Lewis University in Romeoville (up 13.05 percent to $46.16 million); Dominican University in River Forest (up 12.13 percent to $26.15 million), and Columbia College Chicago (up 14.05 percent to $124.5 million).

Others with endowment return rate increases were DePaul University, up 10.17 percent to $384.7 million, and National-Louis University, up 5.76 percent to $29.84 million.

Harvard University’s endowment, which earned an investment return of 11.3 percent for the 2013 fiscal year, remains the largest nationwide at more than $32 billion last year.

Katherine Sawyer, executive director of Elgin Community College’s institutional advancement and foundation, said Tuesday that 40 percent of the foundation’s growth came from stock-market investment returns. Of the endowment total, 85 percent is dedicated to fund student scholarships, Sawyer said.

Len Bertolini, vice president for university advancement at Lewis University, said besides the healthy investing environment, the school is constantly seeking contributions from alumni and friends, and each year puts a portion of any operating surplus into the endowment fund. The portion varies each year.

Moody Bible Institute benefited from a $3 million gift from an undisclosed donor, and credited half of its endowment return-rate growth to the stock market.

National Lewis University President Nivine Megahed said in a statement that the growth, due primarily to the school’s investment strategy, lets it boost scholarships and financial aid to students and reinvest in curriculum, innovation and new programs.

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