Market losses hammer Indiana colleges

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These have been tough times for colleges. The U.S. Department of Education says finances of three Indiana institutions atrophied enough during the 2007-08 academic year that they merited additional monitoring.

The colleges—Bethel College in Mishawaka; Manchester College in North Manchester; and Grace College and Theological Seminary in Winona Lake—slipped below the composite score of 1.5 on a scale of 3 to minus 1 that triggers the extra scrutiny. The score tracks viability, profitability, liquidity, ability to borrow and capital resources.

The government tracks college and university finances to ensure the schools can follow through with students who receive financial aide. A list of all colleges on the list are at this Chronicle of Higher Education site.

Officials at the Indiana schools say they were hit hard by market losses, but that they also are recovering along with the market’s comeback. Manchester, for example, just learned in an e-mail that its 2009-10 score rose to 1.51—enough to get off the list.

“The college is very strong financially,” says Executive Vice President Dave McFadden, adding that Manchester has little debt.

Bethel also was hit by unexpected costs for health care and a couple of other unusual events. Restructured debt and a rebuilt endowment are righting the ship, says President Steve Cramer.

Ironically, all three institutions on the list are in a thick pocket of private colleges in north-central Indiana that through the first half of the 20th Century witnessed a great deal of religious fervor. Billy Sunday, the professional baseball player-turned evangelist, held revival services in the Winona Lake area.

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