How financially healthy is your college?


(MoneyWatch) More than 150 private colleges failed the federal government's newly released financial responsibility test, one of the only national indicators of the fiscal health of degree-granting institutions.

Among the schools that flunked were 116 nonprofit institutions and 37 for-profit institutions. The U.S. Department of Education did not assess the financial stability of public colleges and universities. Rather, the agency measured the overall financial health of all degree-granting private schools for the 2011 fiscal year that participated in the federal financial aid program. Without this federal aid, many schools could not survive. The test aims in part to prevent federal aid from going to financially troubled schools that are in danger of closing.

Every institution received a score on a scale ranging from a negative 1.0 to a positive 3.0. Schools that have scores between 1.5 and 3.0 passed the federal test.

The schools with the worst scores (negative 1) were:

- National Hispanic University, Calif. (for profit)
- Remington College-Houston, Tex. (not for profit)
- Robert B. Miller College, Mich. (not for profit)
- Trident University International, Calif. (for profit)

At The Chronicle of Higher Education's website you can check the financial responsibility scores of 1,900-plus private colleges and universities. The database allows users to search for individual schools and check institutions by states.

Controversial test

The composite financial scores, which the Department of Education says are not a reflection on the quality of education at an institution, are controversial. The National Association of College and University Business Officers and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities have complained about their accuracy.

The Education Department uses an institution's audited financial statements to help generate the fiscal health score. Higher-ed groups have been asking the government to reform the test for two years and have now decided to ask Congress to mandate changes.

Institutions that don't pass the federal test are required to post a letter of credit equal to 50 percent or more of the federal student aid they receive.