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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.

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.

Several leading organizations and individuals have made important contributions to increase transparency around higher education's costs, value, finances, and economic models. These additional resources can provide unique insights and context for users of the MAPS data tools.

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.

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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