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Financial Health Dashboard

To achieve their missions, colleges and universities need appropriate resources - but right now, resources aren't equitably distributed across the postsecondary system. This has real consequences for equitable student success, particularly for historically marginalized students. 

Leaders need tools that provide deeper insight and equitable foresight into how financial decision-making affects student outcomes historically and moving forward.

To support this need, the Financial Health Dashboard offers a first-of-its-kind visibility into the financial health of more than 3,000 colleges and universities nationwide and the system as a whole.

Leveraging six years of data and sector-specific models, this interactive resource provides decision makers with a data-driven way to understand the current financial state, learn from peers, and together shape a system where every student can succeed.


Explore the Dashboard

What the dashboard is:

What the dashboard is not:

Uniquely comprehensive: Integrates financial data with student trend data for 3000+ colleges and universities


Sector-specific: Outlines separate models for six different  institutional sectors (2 and 4 year public, private, and proprietary)


Interactive: Engage with data points to understand the "why" and "what" behind the scores

Condemning: Does not predict the future failure (or success) of any institution

Exhaustive: One resource to be used in conjunction with other tools for a robust and contextualized understanding

Static: Expect changes to the index over time as new data and feedback become available

*The FHII will not include profiles for institutions who have not reported sufficient financial data to IPEDS via the IPEDS Finance Survey.


Understand the Tool

This list provides letter grades on the institutional finances of more than 900 private, not-for-profit colleges with full-time enrollments greater than 500 students. Components of the scoring model include endowment assets per FTE (full time students), primary reserve ratio, viability ratio, core operating margin, tuition as a percentage of core revenues, return on assets, admissions yield, percentage of freshman getting grant aid, and instruction expenses per FTE.

This effort seeks to help institutions pursue greater financial sustainability as higher education changes. It provides a framework for strategic decision making across four pillars: mission, structure, strengths, and resources. The website offers structured engagement ideas through strategic questions to help institutions understand their own standing and also provides examples and case studies of well-positioned institutions.

Composite Financial Index (CFI)

The CFI is a longstanding financial calculation used by many institutions that stems from the book Strategic Financial Analysis for Higher Education by individuals at accounting firm KPMG (published in 1980 but updated seven times since). CFI condenses information to a single number and is based on four key ratios: primary reserve ratio, viability ratio, net operating revenue ratio, and return on net assets ratio. This report from SHEEO discusses CFI and other financial health resources.

Edmit is a private company that seeks to provide third-party information on colleges and universities to prospective students and their families. Their financial health model scores 937 private institutions on how soon the combination of revenues and net assets could fail to cover operating expenses and categorizes them as either very high risk, high risk, medium risk, or low risk. Previous elements of their model were controversial since they provided a “time to closure estimate” for schools and not released publicly.

Pennsylvania has received significant press for the changes happening and proposed in its higher education system. The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) created a sustainability standard policy to simplify and evaluate the financial wellbeing of its institutions. The PASSHE model uses four key inputs that are closest to an institution’s control: enrollment, operating margin, primary reserve ratio, and university reserves.

This financial health model measures the financial fitness of public four year universities, private non-profit universities, and two year public colleges. It is based on work by Robert Zemsky, Susan Shaman and Susan Campbell Baldridge as laid out in their book The College Stress Test. Each institution is ranked on a scale from 0 to 3 based on their performance in categories including: enrollment of first time undergraduates, retention rate, average tuition-and-fees revenue per student, state appropriations, ratio of endowment to total expenses, and the change in ratio of tuition-and-fees revenue to instructional cost. Hechinger’s model is different for each of the three types of institutions included.

This campaign attempts to answer the question “what is college worth?” by proposing a shared definition of value. The commission provides a measurement framework for how colleges and universities can create equitable value for their students and an action agenda to help guide changes in policy and practice.

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