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Message from CMU President Tim Foster: Moody's Reaffirms Financial Strength of CMU

On September 4, 2019, one of the world’s foremost credit rating agencies, Moody's, reaffirmed the financial strength of Colorado Mesa University. 

Throughout the last decade CMU has grown, outpacing many national trends in higher education. In the financial world, people might refer to this achievement as “out performance.” At CMU we simply call it “doing our job.” 

Between 2014 and 2019 a number of highly-regarded institutions of higher education were downgraded. A number of downgrades nationally made news headlines. In this environment, the ability to maintain an investment level credit rating, all-the-while growing both academically and physically, speaks volumes about the culture of CMU. 

Moody’s noted among the variables resulting in the university maintaining a solid credit rating is what we might call smart growth. CMU continues to maintain very strong positive operating margins, which provides the requisite resources to address new program needs, to meet the demands of a changing and growing economy, as well as, covering any unexpected needs, providing evidence of financial prudence. Our team works to grow programs that provide opportunities for our students and support the overall university.

Universities are not businesses. However, when some business principles are applied to the management of universities good things happen. 

As demonstrated in a 2018 financial impact report, CMU is among the key economic anchors of the regional economy. In this regard, maintaining a high level of financial strength is important. Doing so allows the community to invest in and alongside CMU in partnerships that have a high educational yield for students and local and regional employers. In fact, Moody’s references the university’s partnership with local governments in the form of scholarship programs and long-term real-estate acquisitions as being a unique factor contributing to the positive momentum and market position of CMU. 

Other examples of products resulting from financial strength include creating certificate to doctorate career ladder programs like nursing, adding numerous graduate level offerings in business and healthcare-related fields like physician assistants and occupational therapy, expanding workforce training through our community college division and staying ahead of physical growth needs by executing our campus master plan.  

Like entities in the private sector, being in a position of financial strength means CMU can make investments now that will benefit students in the future. For example, CMU has invested in faculty and staff ensuring we attract and retain high quality people for the future. CMU has invested in campus infrastructure such as state-of-the-art classrooms which prepare students for their careers.  

Because CMU does not currently face many of the cyclical headwinds experienced by others in higher education, we can approach donors with success stories showing them exactly how their monies are being invested and where the returns are manifesting. This is part of the reason the CMU Foundation broke a number of fundraising records in 2018. The foundation is a contributor to CMU’s financial standing and success with a portion of the organization’s resources going directly to students in the form of aid. 

Through the years all universities will face the inevitable ebb and flow of enrollment and financial fluctuations. The goal is that over the long-haul a university stays solvent so that it can thrive and execute its mission to educate people thereby serving the community, protecting democracy and advancing civility. Simply put: financial strength is a prerequisite to higher education advancing its mission. 

CMU thanks the City of Grand Junction, Mesa County, The City and County of Montrose, Colorado legislators and CMU’s private donors for helping the university sustain financial strength and making the university one of Colorado’s premier up-and-coming education institutions. 

Read Moody's rating outlook summary.


Written by David Ludlam