University Of Illinois Gets Good Credit Grade, But With Warning Signs

Sep 21, 2016

Credit University of Illinois Public Affairs

The University of Illinois has received a relatively glowing financial report from Moody's Investor Service, but it comes with warnings.

In a just-released report, Moody's analysts commend administrators for having years ago prepared to weather fiscal storms like the one higher education's facing now.

The state of Illinois may have the nation's worst credit rating. But its largest public university system -- the University of Illinois -- gets a far better grade.

In a just-released report, Moody's analysts commend administrators for having prepared years ago to weather fiscal storms like the one higher education is facing now.

The U of I and other public universities went nearly a year without state funding.

Moody's credits U of I leaders for having bolstered the school's balance sheet. The report says the school's brand and diverse revenue base -- for example, high demand from international students -- add credit stability that's helped to cushion state funding blows.

Now comes the "but."

U of I's three campuses collectively enroll the most international students of any university in the U.S., and Moody's says that makes Illinois vulnerable to possible future government policy changes or restrictions.

There's also the possibility that the state will stop paying universities' pension tabs; shifting that cost to U of I and other universities could spiral into a monster burden.

And, the analysts write, the state budget situation will over time hurt U of I's ability to "compete for top tier faculty."