Skip to comments.Student Loan Crisis: Why So Many Colleges May Fail? (The profile of a typical at-risk college)
Posted on 05/21/2012 7:26:22 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
We know the model is not sustainable, said Lawrence T. Lesick, vice president for enrollment management at Ohio Northern University. Schools are going to have to show the value proposition. Those that dont arent going to be around.
(The New York Times; May 14, 2012)
Very few topics have received as much attention here at Sense on Cents as the student loan crisis.
In my opinion, the size, scope, and impact of this problem is an enormous anchor weighing down our next generation and our nation’s economy.
Make no mistake, this anchor is not only impacting thousands of students and families but is also having an equally burdensome impact on colleges and universities nationwide.
I choose my words carefully here. The other day I entitled my commentary, Student Debt Bubble: Impending Doom for Colleges.
Doom is a strong word. Why did I choose it? Let’s navigate.
Embedded within a very recently released Bloomberg commentary is a study by Richard Kneedler, President Emeritus of Franklin & Marshall College. In light of the economic crisis that hit our shores and continues to envelop our nation, in early 2009 Kneedler released a very granular review of the economic condition of close to 700 private colleges and universities. For anybody with even a passing interest in this issue, Kneedler’s work, is a MUST read. What do we learn?
1. Using this post-crash model (and may it not be mid-crash), 207 colleges and universities31% of the 678 institutions in the database have, under at least some circumstances, more debts than cash and marketable investments. I designate them at risk. In the model these 207 inadequate-capital institutions have projected net financial asset balances ranging from a negative few hundred thousand dollars to nearly a negative $400,000,000. More than half of the 205 had negative projections from ($10,000,000) to ($100,000,000).
2. This means that the inadequate-capital institutions (which might include a third or more of NAICU members) are exposed to severe disruption from negative factors such as declines in cash and investments, escalation of interest payments on variable-rate debt, and required accelerated repayment of principle, particularly if several negative factors were to coincide.
In those circumstances, any of the inadequate-capital institutions and perhaps some of the marginally positive schools might find themselves unable either to meet their increased payment obligations or to repay their debts. The institution could then be effectively insolvent, even if its operations were otherwise healthy. While the institution might not be bankrupt, creditors could demand control of major operating decisions. This is, essentially, what has been happening to sectors of the business community, such as homebuilders, retailers, and newspapers, that have lost credibility with banks. That has apparently not happened to independent Higher Education, but the warnings from S&P and Moodys about our sectors prospects are ominous and could foreshadow a shift by rating agencies based on enrollment, or other, data.
Bingo. With student debt burdens soaring ever higher. Demand for many of these at risk institutions will inevitably decline. Subsequently, these schools will get squeezed and be forced to close their doors. Kneedler highlights the gap that exists between the haves and have-nots.
… there is a consistent, large financial gap between high capital and inadequate-capital institutions that is exacerbated in a time of financial trouble.
He provides a compositie average profile of the at risk school.
Average inadequate-capital institution :
Undergraduate enrollment: 2,800
Endowment and other investments: $45,000,000
End-of year cash on hand: $9,000,000
Bonds and mortgages outstanding: $62,000,000
Annual revenues/expenses/margin: $102,000,000/$95,000,000/$7,000,000
Model Post-Market-Drop Score: ($24,000,000) (-24% capital score)
Where are these schools predominantly located?
States/Regions. Areas with more inadequate-capital than adequate-capital institutions and, thus, more exposure to the crisis effects in Higher Education include:
1) Previously high-growth states Arizona, Florida, Nevada, and Washington;
2) Appalachian states West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee;
3) Rust-Belt states Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania., and
4) Two other clusters – Alabama and Mississippi and a final one in Plains States from Iowa to Oklahoma.
Is there a correlation between students carrying high debt burdens and the high risk schools? Rut-ro…
Students Aid Eligibility. Financially-at-risk students disproportionately enroll at financially-at-risk private colleges. 63% of our inadequate-capital institutions had student populations in which 25% or more of full-time undergraduates were eligible for financial assistance under Title IV of the Higher Education Act. By contrast, only 14% of adequate-capital institutions in the study did. Inadequate-capital private institutions play a critical role in giving low-income students access to college. This is a major national policy issue that our entire sector needs to continue to work hard to resolve.
Inadequate-capital institutions are less prepared to absorb potential revenue losses from drops in enrollment, alumni giving or investment income. They are less able to meet increased demands for financial aid for students or higher interest payments on variable rate debt. From whatever direction trouble arrives, these colleges may lack resources to weather the crisis, and their difficulties will tend to compound faster than will those of their better-off peers because they have less cash to spend, fewer assets to sell, and less budget fat to trim.
Inadequate capital institutions more often use bank credit lines, loans from trustees or vendors, and other arrangements vulnerable to cancellation or repricing to obtain capital and operational financing.
This discussion indicates that there is a significant subset of inadequate-capital private colleges and universities that provide essential access to higher education for low-income and minority students, access that could be denied if these institutions are damaged. In a time of severe economic challenges for the country, this access to higher education is an important national priority and needs to be considered as the country works it way through and out of the present crisis.
For those who care to read and review Kneedler’s entire report, I submit: Financial Crisis Creates Big Risks for Private Colleges and Students They Serve.
Given the widespread interest in this topic, I welcome including other commentaries I have written as well:
1. Are Student Loans an Impending Bubble? Is Higher Education a Scam?; April 26, 2011
2. Are Student Loans an Impending Bubble? Is Higher Education a Scam?: Part II;June 22, 2011
3. Very Disturbing UPDATE: Student Loan Bubble and Seeking Arrangements; August 4, 2011
4. Student Loan Debt Bombs Collateral Damage; February 28, 2012
5. The Prohibitive Cost of Higher Education: A Racket?; April 10, 2012
6. Student Debt Bubble: Impending Doom for Colleges; May 14, 2012
Too many people go to college anyway these days.
College should be for the best of the best, not super high school+ for the masses.
Not everyone can be a white collar worker, someone has got to do the manual labor.
It’s not a catastrophe for an enterprise to go under. Sends a corrective signal to the market.
Heaven knows, the “higher education” market needs some correction, to say the least...
And not every white collar job actually requires a college degree to do it well, although obviously a lot of companies will continue to require it for a while until the number of college grads declines from current levels.
Here's the deal. It's scarcity that lends value to something. And as always ... when you dig deep enough you discover that ... government is the source of the problem.
There was a time when a high school diploma was the ticket to the good life. Then government stepped in and basically forced everyone to go to high school. Thus making a high school diploma far more common... and thus worthless.
After that the ticket to the good life was achieved by getting a 4 year bachelors degree... but the government decided to get involved again... and started giving out loans and grants to anyone and everyone... which resulted in the cost of college skyrocketing AND making a bachelors degree worthless because again like before they were way to common.
So ... now we are at the point that you are basically forced to pay a fortune to get an undergraduate AND graduate degree and spend an additional 6-10 years doing it to get the same results you would have historically gotten for free with only a high school diploma.
Thanks big government!
Not a word of salaries, benefits, or non-teaching professors.
Eliminate that one key provision, ie allow employment tests without regard to "disparate impact" among minorities, and most of the rationale for a college degree goes away. Companies could once again hire people out of high school, and employees could continue their educations via distance learning.
And so many majors don’t train students for white-collar jobs, or any jobs — or even if they do, in theory, the way it works in practice is that they think that their lives are not worth anything unless they are working for a non-governmental organization rather than creating value in private enterprise.
Looks like Obama will need a no college left behind law in addition to his no teacher left behind law.
Our universities are for rich foreign students anyway.