Winter of Discontent

I thought this was going to be about Shakespeare

Time for another rundown of some of the U.S. colleges and universities whose financial situations have been in the news lately, ordered according to my metric of percentage increase in expenses per undergraduate FTE, from fiscal years 2011 to 2019, the most recent year for which IRS tax filing and IPEDS enrollment data are (usually) available.

As usual, this is my personal opinion based on public information.

31: Pacific Lutheran University*

In November, Pacific Lutheran University declared financial exigency. If a university’s president says his employer “is not closing its doors,” that’s a red flag.

37: University of Evansville*

To rephrase its own statement, Evansville needs to make some changes to remain viable. According to its Form 990s, Evansville received $44 million in contributions in fiscal year (FY) 2013, which allowed net revenue of about $35 million on total expenses of $104 million. In other words, without the contributions, it would have been about $9 million short. Despite that $35 million windfall for FY 2013, Evansville was in deficit in FYs 2015 and 2016. Its budget has a structural problem: even though undergraduate enrollment declined, the number of faculty increased. So it’s time for some faculty to lose their jobs, in the hopes that cutting labor costs will be enough to keep the university operating.

38: College of Saint Rose

I first wrote about Saint Rose in 2015, when it announced a plan to terminate over ten percent of its full-time faculty and close twenty-three of its academic programs. Since then, its undergraduate enrollment has continued to drop, and it was in deficit for FYs 2016, 2017, and 2019. In December, it announced the elimination of an additional twenty-two degree programs in an attempt to balance its budget by 2023.

42: Notre Dame de Namur University

By 2019, de Namur’s FTE undergraduate enrollment had fallen to only 780 students, down from a peak of 1,030 in 2014. In March of last year, it decided not to admit new students for the fall semester. To “continue the operation of the university beyond spring 2021,” it plans to sell part of its campus and end its traditional on-campus undergraduate programs.

49: Guilford College

I first wrote about Guilford a little more than two years ago. Its undergraduate FTE enrollment fell by 42 percent from 2011 and 2019, and it now seems to be up against a wall. Guilford’s previous president resigned and will finish out her career as a tenured English professor there. Efforts by the subsequent interim president to put Guilford on a sustainable financial path look like they are being undermined by the trustees that hired her.

65: Judson College

In December, Judson issued an appeal for $1.5 million in donations, approximately 15 percent of its operating budget, to stay open for the remainder of the 2020-21 academic year. The college ran deficits for every fiscal year between 2011 and 2019, except for 2017. During this period, its undergraduate FTE enrollment declined by a third from 387 to 261. College Scorecard states that Judson has a graduation rate of only 33 percent, with 46 percent of students who enroll withdrawing and another 21 percent transferring.

If you are interested in calculating the percentage increase in your college or university’s expenses per FTE undergraduate, click on the link in the first paragraph. Additional useful information on changes in admissions yields, enrollment, and net tuition revenue can be found by plugging your employer’s name into the Single Institution tab in the Tableau visualization at Jon Boeckenstedt’s Higher Ed Data Stories.

*The school’s 2019 Form 990 isn’t available yet, so percentage increase is calculated from 2011 to 2018.

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