Debt Levels Rising at Major Colleges

Colleges around the country have been on a decade-long spending binge to construct academic buildings, dormitories, and recreational facilities, which has left many colleges with large amounts of debt. According to Moody’s, overall debt levels more than doubled from 2000 to 2011 at more than 500 institutions rated by the municipal bond rating firm. Over the same period, the amount of cash, pledged gifts and investments that colleges maintain has declined more than 40 percent relative to the amount they owe. This comes at a time when revenue growth has slowed due to the challenging economy. In this environment of slow economic growth and high student and college debt levels it’s important to focus on how each university has been able to manage its debt levels and its revenue mix while continuing to provide a quality education. In many cases, colleges and universities have tremendous pricing power, and have been increasing tuition and fees to offset increased debt. SNW continues to find opportunities in prudently managed university revenue bonds, but the list is shrinking.