Rating agencies and planning at Augustana College #highered

A few weeks ago President Bahls forwarded a report from Moody’s, which is one of the bond rating agencies that focuses on institutions of higher education. Moody’s periodically releases reports and offers opinions about the financial health of colleges and other sectors of higher education.

I find the reports fascinating, in part because they boil down complex issues to simply statements and observations. Additionally, they make judgments and offer proclamations that make us jump, even if we don’t agree completely. These reports matter and there is no getting around it.

The report President Bahls forwarded to me is from November 2010 and is titled, “Governance and Management: The Underpinning of University Credit Ratings.” As I reviewed the report I was reminded much of what we hope to emphasize in Affirm, Assure and Assess.

Moody’s cited the following five factors considered in rating assessment:

1.     Board and senior management leadership capability in stable and stressful times

2.     Oversight and disclosure processes that reduce risk and enhance operational effectiveness

3.     Execution of integrated short- and long-term plan to optimize resource utilization

4.     Commitment to self-assessment and benchmarking to promote ongoing improvement

5.     Effective management of government relations to encourage future support

While the fifth criterion is not as relevant for Augustana as an independent college, the other four areas are within our plan and should please Moody’s.

In particular, I think our emphasis on self-assessment and benchmarking through the development of the Institutional Effectiveness and Mission Fulfillment effort will not only reassure Moody’s, it likely will serve as an example to others. And, it will help us improve the experience for all of our students.

I think Moody’s and others also will be reassured by our emphasis on risk minimization throughout our planning process.

Finally, I think Moody’s would be impressed by our emphasis and acknowledgement of good shared governance as an essential element to institutional health.

I hope you will read the Moody’s report I reference and consider it within the context of Affirm, Assure and Assess. My hope is that you will share my confidence that we focused on the right things in our plan.

Please share your thoughts on the Moody’s report and how it relates to Affirm, Assure and Assess.

W. Kent Barnds, Vice President of Enrollment, Communication and Planning

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