Financial health of Colorado universities in question

Dec 23, 2013 by

When officials from Adams State University sat down before the Joint Budget Committee recently, one of the contingent said he felt “like we’re standing in front of a firing squad.” And while they were assured that wasn’t the case, it’s clear that a number of Colorado schools are firmly in the legislative cross hairs.

A study prepared for the JBC indicated that six schools — Adams State, Colorado Mesa University, Colorado State University, Fort Lewis College, University of Northern Colorado and Western State Colorado University — fell below the threshold that indicated “moderate financial health” during the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Even more distressing for Adams and Western State, their scores registered below zero, prompting the report to question “the long-term sustainability” of the schools.

And while the institutions are talking tough — “we’ve been here for 90 years, and we’ll be here for another 90,” Adams State President David Svaldi said — the numbers haven’t gone unnoticed.

After the hearings concluded, the JBC sent additional instructions to Adams State and Western State, asking them to provide the committee with strategic plans for turning around their financial straits as well as the means for the General Assembly to track their progress in the near future.

“At this point, it’s more of a fact-finding phase, but these conversations are going to be ongoing, and it will be very important that they come up with long-term plans and to show us how they see themselves achieving fiscal security,” said Rep. Crisanta Duran, the chair of the JBC.

The study is done each year prior to the schools testifying before the JBC. One of the issues this year’s study focused on was the financial health of schools throughout the state. The analysis was prompted because of reports citing an increase in the number of schools failing nationally under the weight of financial strain.

Based on indexes the report said are commonly used in higher education, the JBC study looked at factors including the schools’ financial resources, debt management, asset performance and net operating revenue, with a score of 3.0 or higher indicating “moderate financial health.”

While Adams and Western State’s scores were far below that figure, officials say there are mitigating circumstances.

via Financial health of several Colorado universities in question – The Denver Post.

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