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Many Washington colleges and universities were facing challenges even before COVID-19 pandemic

A new report paints a dire picture for higher education institutions, even before the coronavirus pandemic further complicated the situation.

SEATTLE — A new report examines financial strains facing higher education institutions, even before the coronavirus pandemic further complicated the situation for colleges and universities in the U.S.

The investigation, done by the non-profit education outlet The Hechinger Report in partnership with NBC News, examined federal data for several key metrics: enrollment, tuition revenue, public funding and endowment health.

They flag schools lagging in these categories in their searchable “Financial Fitness Tracker.”

A handful of schools in Washington are flagged, including several community colleges. University of Washington and Washington State University do not ping in the database with flags.

Several four-year public institutions do stand out in Washington from the study though, with a relatively higher score from the tracker.

All data was gathered in the year before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The Lake Washington Institute of Technology (LWT) showed issues with enrollment and average tuition, according to the report, within the 10th percentile of the 2,662 schools studied.

The Northwest Indian College (NWIC) in Bellingham showed similar issues for enrollment and retention.

The Evergreen State College showed a moderate level, between the 19th and 10th percentile, for enrollment, retention and average tuition.

Both LWT and NWIC declined interview requests for this story.

Christine Hoffmann, manger of public relations and outreach for Evergreen, said they don’t believe the stress metric captures their situation accurately.

“Like many universities and businesses, Evergreen is managing financial challenges. In the past year, we’ve proactively and responsibly made changes to address enrollment and retention and have begun to see some progress,” she said.

The report’s authors note in worst-case scenarios, financial issues can and have led schools to abruptly close, leaving students in difficult situations. But they write this stress test is not necessarily an indicator or predictor of those situations.

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