Newest Financial Data Show Campuses Continue to Maintain Financial Health

The 11th annual edition of CIC’s Financial Indicators Tool (FIT) benchmarking report, released in July, revealed that the financial health of small and mid-sized colleges and universities remained stable over the most recent year measured and displayed modest gains since 2009–2010. The Primary Reserve Ratio (PRR), which measures an institution’s resource sufficiency and flexibility, indicates that in 2014–2015 institutions at or above the national median of 0.62 could meet their college or university’s financial obligations for a little over seven months with readily available assets (see Figure below). The recommended threshold for the PRR is 0.4; an institution at or above that threshold has sufficient cash for short-term needs to operate for 40 percent of a year (or 4.8 months). As the Figure shows, the national median for the PRR for baccalaureate and master’s-level private colleges remained over the 0.4 threshold of financial health for the fifth year in a row.

Line Graph: Median Primary Reserve Ratio by Enrollment Size  

CIC member colleges and universities use the FIT for financial performance benchmarking, budget projections, and strategic planning. The report helps presidents and other campus leaders track resource sufficiency, indebtedness, investment performance, operating results, and overall financial condition of their institutions.

The FIT report uses a set of financial performance measures that rely on the CFI, developed for the National Association of College and University Business Officers by Prager, Sealy & Co.; KPMG; and Attain. The CFI is based on four core financial ratios, each representing a particular domain of financial operations. To calculate the performance measures, CIC relies on data publicly available from GuideStar, using IRS Form 990, and the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System to avoid a reporting burden for member institutions.

Ruffalo Noel Levitz generously supports the benchmarking project, which allows CIC to provide the reports at no cost to all its Institutional Members. The Austen Group gathers the data and prepares the FIT reports for CIC. View more information about FIT and CIC’s other benchmarking services or contact Hollie Chessman, CIC’s director of research projects, at