New Report Documents Financial Resilience of Small and Mid-Sized Colleges

8/14/2017 — Washington, DC

Download a PDF of the press release.

​A new report from the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) documents the extraordinary resilience of small and mid-sized colleges and universities in the face of the 2007–2009 recession and declines in the number of high school graduates. The Financial Resilience of Independent Colleges and Universities puts to rest the myth that most small to mid-sized private colleges and universities will not survive.

This research report analyzes data from 14 years of benchmarking reports prepared for CIC members as the Key Indicators Tool (KIT) and the Financial Indicators Tool (FIT). The analysis is guided by methodology developed by Salluzzo, Prager, Tahey, and Cowen in Ratio Analysis in Higher Education (1999).

Key findings include:

  • Data spanning 14 years (2000–2014) show that a large majority (88 percent) of small and mid-sized private colleges and universities have maintained or improved their financial standing, no small feat through the 2007–2009 recession.

  • While some institutions have experienced dramatic ups and downs, most have shown significant improvement in key financial indicators, including the Composite Financial Index (CFI), since the recession.

  • The long-term financial resilience of small and mid-sized independent colleges is determined by more than institutional attributes, such as geographic region, size, or financial resources.

  • Factors beyond the data analyzed, such as strong institutional leadership, may be the most important in determining the financial health of an institution.

“Many private colleges and universities have adapted—and continue to adapt—to economic and demographic challenges, by creating new, innovative programs, reducing expenses, and creating new sources of revenue,” said CIC President Richard Ekman. “I hope this study will put to rest the image of the ailing private college and help readers understand the impressive resilience of these institutions.”

Four of the college presidents whose institutions were included in the study are available to talk with media representatives about their institution’s financial experience during years covered by the study.

Amy C. Novak
Dakota Wesleyan University
1200 West University Avenue
Mitchell, SD 57301
(605) 995-2601

Frederik Ohles
Nebraska Wesleyan University
5000 St. Paul Avenue
Lincoln, NE 68504
(402) 465-2217
Michele Perkins
New England College
98 Bridge Street
Henniker, NH 03242
(603) 428-2222

Henry Spaulding
Mount Vernon Nazarene University
800 Martinsburg Road
Mount Vernon, OH 43050
(740) 397-9000, ext. 4100

CIC is grateful to the TIAA Institute for its generous support of the research for this report. The report is available online as a PDF.

​The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) is an association of 767 nonprofit independent colleges and universities, as well as state-based councils and other higher education affiliates, that works to support college and university leadership, advance institutional excellence, and enhance public understanding of independent higher education’s contributions to society. CIC is the major national organization that focuses on services to leaders of independent colleges and universities and state-based councils. CIC offers conferences, seminars, publications, and other programs and services that help institutions improve educational quality, administrative and financial performance, student outcomes, and institutional visibility. It conducts the largest annual conferences of college and university presidents and of chief academic officers. Founded in 1956, CIC is headquartered at One Dupont Circle in Washington, DC.

The TIAA Institute helps advance the ways individuals and institutions plan for financial security and organizational effectiveness. The Institute conducts and supports in-depth research, provides access to a network of thought leaders, and enables those it serves to anticipate trends, plan future strategies, and maximize opportunities for success. To learn more, visit