Small, private colleges in the United States provide students with close-knit and individualized college experiences. However, these institutions are increasingly vulnerable to closures, mergers, and acquisitions due to economic downturns, enrollment challenges, and many other internal and external factors. Compared to their larger public and private wealthier counterparts, small colleges do not have the reputational clout, endowment size, public support, or enrollment supply to protect them from institutional instability and potential demise. The existing literature focuses on the financial viability of small colleges, but research also suggests that institutions should also examine the effect of nonfinancial variables on overall institutional health. With a conceptual framework synthesized from the research on institutional viability and health, this study addressed the relationships between the equity ratio and six financial and nonfinancial variables (i.e., endowment assets per full-time equivalent, debt-to-asset ratio, tuition discount rate, undergraduate enrollment, student-to-faculty ratio, and degrees conferred) for 646 four-year, private colleges with fewer than 4,000 students between FY12 and FY17 in the United States. Descriptive analysis was the means used to examine the changes in the independent variables compared to changes in the equity ratios for these institutions between FY12 and FY17. A bivariate correlational analysis commenced exploring the relationships between the dependent variable (equity ratio) and the six independent variables and their relationships with each other. There was an institutional health measure created for 627 of the small colleges in the study. Finally, there were descriptive analyses conducted for four small colleges that had undergone closures, near closures, or mergers or acquisitions. The study showed that the equity scores for most of the small colleges remained stable or improved over 5 years, indicating financial stability. However, the descriptive analyses indicated increased tuition discount rates, decreased endowment assets per full-time equivalent, and decreased student enrollment at many institutions, indicating concerns about their viability. The correlational analysis showed that only one variable (debt-to-asset ratio) had a statistically significant relationship with the equity ratio; this indicated that the other independent variables presented unique, meaningful information not included in the equity ratio. Finally, the descriptive analysis showed that three of the four small colleges had high equity ratio, financial responsibility, and CFI scores, indicating that the equity ratio and other financial indicators did not provide a meaningful enough assessment of institutional viability.
|Commitee:||Klasik, Daniel, Wayt, Lindsay|
|School:||The George Washington University|
|Department:||Higher Education Administration|
|School Location:||United States -- District of Columbia|
|Source:||DAI-A 82/8(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Higher Education Administration, Finance|
|Keywords:||Institutional viability, Small colleges, Private colleges, Equity ratios, Institutional health|
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