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Interactive Tool Shows Financial Stress on Colleges

August 5, 2020
 
 

Curious about your college’s financial health?

A new interactive tool from the Hechinger Report and NBC News evaluates colleges’ financial stress at the end of the 2019-20 academic year.

The Financial Fitness Tracker was developed using methodology from The College Stress Test by Robert Zemsky, Susan Shaman and Susan Campbell Baldridge. The scores are based on enrollment, revenue, endowment and state appropriations data from the National Center for Education Statistics, as well as resulting projections from those data.

Public four-year universities are scored in four categories: change in enrollment of first-time undergraduate students, retention rate, change in the average tuition-and-fee revenue per student and change in state appropriations. Private, nonprofit four-year colleges are scored in the same categories, except change in the ratio of endowment to total expenses is swapped in for change in state appropriations.

Public, two-year colleges are scored in three categories: change in entering student enrollment, change in the ratio of tuition-and-fee revenue to instructional costs and change in state and local appropriations.

In an analysis of more than 2,600 colleges, the Hechinger Report found that more than 500 show signs of financial stress in two or more categories. The issue is not evenly spread throughout the United States -- 36 of those colleges are in Ohio and 26 are in Illinois. About half of colleges show steady enrollment declines since 2008, and a third of all four-year colleges brought in less revenue in 2017-18 than they did in 2009-10.

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