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Announcement:

Moody's: Outlook for US higher education sector remains negative for 2014

25 Nov 2013

New York, November 25, 2013 -- The outlook for the US higher education sector remains negative, Moody's Investors Service says in a new report, "2014 Outlook -- US Higher Education and Not-for-Profits." Business conditions in the sector will remain stressed over the next 12-18 months. Revenue growth is expected to remain much lower than historical standards and to be eclipsed by expenses, due to pent-up institutional needs.

"Heightened competition for government funds, donors, and students combined with pressure to increase compensation and invest in programs and facilities will result in continued deterioration of financial performance," says Moody's Vice President -- Senior Analyst, Eva Bogaty. "Although higher education institutions have shown willingness and ability to adapt to weak economic conditions, the uncertain funding and regulatory environments will overshadow the sector's strengths in the near term."

Macroeconomic pressures, including a relatively high unemployment rate, lagging labor force participation rate and income stagnation, are undercutting the ability of universities to grow net tuition revenue, Bogaty says. "Affordability remains a key issue as the weak economic environment continues to affect families' ability to pay for higher education and reduces institutions' discretionary spending capacity."

Governmental funding pressures will also challenge the industry in 2014, Moody's says. Federal budget pressures could affect Pell Grants and other federal financial aid. State funding will either be reduced, stagnant, or only slightly increased. Federal research funding will contract further in 2014 following a 5% cut through sequestration. Even if a federal budget agreement is reached, Moody's expects funding to remain flat at best.

"Over the next several years, navigating the new higher education landscape will force universities and colleges to become more nimble in their strategic positioning," Bogaty says. "Over the long term this evolution could be credit positive if it provides greater access and flexibility to students and reduces costs through greater collaboration across institutions."

Moody's research subscribers can access this report at https://www.moodys.com/research/2014-Outlook-US-Higher-Education-Not-for-Profits-and-Independent--PBM_PBM160659.

***

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Eva Horton Bogaty
Vice President - Senior Analyst
Public Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
U.S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
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Kendra M. Smith
MD - Public Finance
Public Finance Group
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
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Moody's: Outlook for US higher education sector remains negative for 2014
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