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U.S. Higher Education Rating Actions, First-Quarter 2021


U.S. State Ratings And Outlooks: Current List


History Of U.S. State Ratings


U.S. Public Finance Rating Activity, October 2021


U.S. Not-For-Profit Health Care Rating Actions, October 2021

U.S. Higher Education Rating Actions, First-Quarter 2021

S&P Global Ratings maintained 77 ratings and took 38 rating actions in the U.S. not-for-profit higher education sector in the first quarter of 2021. The 38 rating actions are broken out as follows:

  • 10 downgrades
  • 18 outlook revisions to stable
  • Seven outlook revisions to negative
  • One outlook revision to positive
  • Two new ratings

All 18 outlooks revised to stable had been revised to negative in April 2020 as part of S&P Global Ratings' response to the heightened social and economic risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, three of the 10 ratings we lowered had outlooks revised to negative from stable in April 2020.

In "Outlook For Global Not-For-Profit Higher Education: Empty Chairs At Empty Tables," published Jan. 20, 2021, on RatingsDirect, we discussed our view that disparities between higher- and lower-rated issuers will continue to increase; through the first quarter of 2021, we have seen that trend materialize. Of the 10 downgrades, seven were within or into the 'BBB' rating category and only one was within the 'AA' rating category. For all of these institutions, the ongoing pandemic exacerbated preexisting enrollment challenges. At the same time, some institutions have demonstrated operating flexibility by effectively implementing expense reductions or rolling out engaging hybrid learning platforms. Looking forward, the effectiveness and rollout of vaccines will be critical in returning to in-person education, although for many institutions, the effects on enrollment and operations over the past year will likely be felt during the coming years.

We continue to assess the pandemic's effect on the creditworthiness of the U.S. not-for-profit higher education sector and may take further actions on specific issuers or groups of issuers as more details become available. Any rating change will include a full review of an entity's individual credit characteristics.

The following tables summarize S&P Global Ratings' quarterly rating actions for U.S. higher education. All rating actions, outlooks, and maintained ratings are based on our "Methodology: Not-For-Profit Public and Private Colleges and Universities" criteria, published Jan. 6, 2016.

Table 1

First-Quarter 2021 U.S. Higher Education Rating Actions
Institution State Rating to Rating from Outlook to Outlook from Description
Agnes Scott College GA A- A Negative Negative Likely enrollment declines in fall 2021; continued trends of full-accrual operating deficits; declining available resources
Bethel University MN BB+ BBB- Stable Negative Continued enrollment decline; negative operating margins for the past four years; weak and softening available resources
Calvin University MI A- Stable New rating
Carlow University PA BBB- BBB Stable Negative Four consecutive years of enrollment decline; declining net tuition revenue leading to operating deficits
Franklin & Marshall College PA A+ AA- Stable Stable Significantly increased debt load in fiscal 2020 resulting in weakened available resource ratios
Goucher College MD BBB+ A- Stable Negative Weakening enrollment and demand profile; persistent operating deficits including extraordinary endowment draws; soft available resources
Missouri Southern State University MO BBB- BBB Negative Negative Recent enrollment declines and weakening demand metrics; sustained operating deficits; depleted available resources
Oberlin College OH AA- AA Stable Negative Capital needs that will lead to additional debt over the next year; weakening enrollment and demand
Ringling College of Art and Design FL BBB BBB+ Stable Negative Declining enrollment and applications; supplemental endowment draws to support operations; weakening balance sheet ratios
University of Northwestern Ohio OH BBB- Stable New rating
Wayland Baptist University TX BBB+ A- Stable Negative Three consecutive years of operating deficits; received and remedied event of default notice from bond trustee
Wilkes University PA BBB- BBB Stable Negative Lower available resources brought on by cash-intensive capital projects; two consecutive years of operating deficits

Table 2

First-Quarter 2021 U.S. Higher Education Outlook Revisions
Institution State Rating Outlook to Outlook from Description
Findlay University OH BBB- Stable Negative Anticipation of stabilized enrollment and growth in applications; limited impact on financial profile despite pandemic challenges
Fisher College MA BBB+ Stable Negative Generally stable operating performance expected to continue into fiscal 2021; healthy available resource ratios; low debt
Florida Southern College FL A- Stable Negative Growing enrollment; expectation that fiscal 2021 operations will be at least breakeven; stable available resources
Gallaudet University DC A+ Negative Stable Two years of enrollment decline greater than 3%; stagnant student-derived revenues; additional debt increases leverage
Georgetown University DC A- Negative Stable Weak financial performance likely to continue into fiscal 2022; relatively weak available resource ratios
Governors State University IL BB+ Stable Negative Based on recent outlook revision to stable on Illinois general obligation ratings; improved financial performance and balance sheet
High Point University NC A- Negative Stable Pressured available resources due to several capital improvements made in recent years
Houston Baptist University TX BBB- Stable Negative Growing enrollment over the past two years; improved operating performance; increasing available resource ratios
Howard University DC BBB- Stable Negative Solid enrollment trend despite pandemic; improved operating performance; execution of strategic initiatives; balance sheet stability
Kean University NJ A- Stable Negative Continued strong operating margins; enrollment that has remained fairly consistent; stable available resources
Lesley University MA A- Negative Stable Material enrollment declines over the past two years; pressured fiscal 2020 operating results likely to continue
Long Island University NY BBB+ Stable Negative Healthy operating performance in fiscal 2020 with surplus expected in fiscal 2021
Lynchburg University VA BBB+ Negative Stable Considerable enrollment decline in fall 2020; softening matriculation and selectivity; uncertainty surrounding new pricing strategy
Marian University IN BBB Stable Negative Trend of enrollment growth; impressive operating margins over the past four years with surplus expected in fiscal 2021
Marywood University PA BB+ Stable Negative Improved available resources ratios and operating performance in recent years; effective expense management measures
Moravian College PA BBB+ Stable Negative Trend of enrollment growth that is expected to continue; return to positive operating performance
Nevada System of Higher Education NV AA- Negative Stable Significant state appropriation cuts for the new biennium; operational impacts facing system due to the pandemic
New York Law School NY BBB- Stable Negative Stable enrollment and demand metrics; operating deficits though reducing reliance on endowment draws; sufficient available resources
Notre Dame of Maryland University MD BBB- Stable Negative Modest growth in enrollment; successful implementation of new academic programs; improvement in operating performance
Rowan University NJ A Stable Negative Stable enrollment profile; improved operating performance with surplus expected for fiscal 2021; sufficient available resources
University of Alabama Birmingham AL AA Positive Stable Favorable performance through pandemic; increasing enrollment trend; healthy financial operations; ample available resources; low debt
University of South Alabama AL A+ Stable Negative Diversification of revenue streams; operating surplus in fiscal 2020 expected to continue in fiscal 2021; improved available resources
University of Southern California CA AA Negative Stable Further weakening of available resource ratios and financial operations due to cost of legal settlements
Vaughn College of Aeronautics & Technology NY BB- Stable Negative Stable operating performance and available resources in line with rating category
Western Kentucky University KY A- Stable Negative Improved operating performance with stable state appropriations; consistent enrollment; adequate available resources
Yeshiva University NY BBB- Stable Negative Stable enrollment and demand metrics; operating deficits and sufficient available resources in line with rating category

Table 3

First-Quarter 2021 U.S. Higher Education Maintained Ratings
Institution State Rating Outlook
Adelphi University NY A- Stable
Albany Law School NY BBB Stable
Arizona State University AZ AA Stable
Ave Maria University FL BBB- Negative
Babson College MA A Stable
Ball State University IN AA- Stable
Benedictine University IL BBB Negative
Texas A&M University System TX AAA Stable
Babson College MA A Stable
Boston College MA AA- Stable
Buena Vista University IA A Stable
Centre College of Kentucky KY A Stable
Champlain College VT BBB Negative
Colgate University NY AA Stable
Florida Atlantic University FL A+ Stable
Florida Atlantic University* FL A Stable
Florida State University FL AA+ Stable
Florida State University* FL AA- Stable
Gannon University PA BBB+ Stable
Grinnell College IA AAA Stable
Harvard University MA AAA Stable
Hawaii Pacific University HI BB Negative
Indiana University of Pennsylvania PA A- Negative
Iona College NY BBB Stable
King's College PA BBB+ Negative
Lipscomb University TN BBB Negative
Loyola University of Chicago IL A+ Stable
McDaniel College MD BBB Stable
MCPHS University MA AA Stable
Mercy College NY A Stable
Michigan State University MI AA Negative
Mount Saint Mary's University CA A Negative
Nazareth College of Rochester NY BBB+ Stable
New England Institute of Technology RI A- Stable
North Carolina State University at Raleigh NC AA Stable
Ohio State University OH AA Stable
Oklahoma State University OK AA- Stable
Old Dominion University VA A+ Stable
Pace University NY BBB- Negative
Princeton Theological Seminary NJ AAA Stable
Princeton University NJ AAA Stable
Purdue University IN AAA Stable
Randolph College VA BBB+ Stable
Rider University NJ BB+ Negative
Southern California Institute of Architecture CA BBB+ Stable
Southern New Hampshire University NH A Positive
St. John Fisher College NY A- Stable
Stanford University CA AAA Stable
Indiana University of Pennsylvania PA A- Negative
Thomas M. Cooley Law School MI BB Negative
Transylvania University KY A- Stable
University of California CA AA Stable
University of California* CA AA- Stable
University of Chicago IL AA- Stable
University of Houston System TX AA Stable
University of Kansas KS AA- Negative
University of Massachusetts System MA AA- Negative
University of Miami FL A- Negative
University of New Mexico NM AA- Stable
University of North Carolina at Charlotte NC A+ Stable
University of North Carolina at Charlotte** NC A Stable
University of Northern Colorado CO A- Negative
University of Pittsburgh PA AA+ Stable
University of Portland OR A Stable
University of Puerto Rico PR CC Negative
University of Puget Sound WA A+ Stable
University of Texas System TX AAA Stable
University of Utah UT AA+ Stable
University of Washington WA AA+ Stable
University System of Maryland MD AA+ Stable
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University VA AA Stable
Western Illinois University IL BB Negative
Western Michigan University MI A Stable
Widener University PA BBB Stable
Williams College MA AA+ Stable
Worcester State University MA A Stable
Yale University CT AAA Stable
*Auxiliary housing system rating. **Auxiliary housing and dining system rating.

Related Research

This report does not constitute a rating action.

Primary Credit Analyst:Jessica L Wood, Chicago + 1 (312) 233 7004;
Secondary Contacts:Laura A Kuffler-Macdonald, New York + 1 (212) 438 2519;
Nicholas K Fortin, Chicago + 1 (312) 914 9629;

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