By UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS
On Tuesday, Moody’s Investors Service released a statement affirming FHSU’s A1 rating. Excerpts from their release can be found below. For the complete story and other information from Moody’s visit https://www.moodys.com/research/Moodys-affirms-Fort-Hays-State-Universitys-KS-A1-ratings-outlook–PR_907937204.
New York, December 06, 2022 — Moody’s Investors Service has affirmed Fort Hays State University’s (KS) A1 issuer and A1 revenue bond ratings. At fiscal year-end 2021, the college recorded $36 million of outstanding debt. The outlook is stable.
The affirmation of Fort Hays State University’s A1 issuer rating reflects its importance to the State of Kansas (Aa2 stable) as a provider of education as well as its strong fiscal discipline to manage expenses amid enrollment declines. Total cash and investments also support credit quality and reached $177 million in fiscal 2021, including the impact of some federal pandemic relief. The university benefits from a diverse student base with around 40% of its enrollment online, and the remaining enrollment split between its location in China and its primary campus in Hays, Kansas. Consistent support from the state aids credit quality and helps the university maintain its modest financial leverage, with strong 5.4x annual debt service coverage at fiscal year-end 2021. Additionally, the university benefits from a very low pension liability.
These strengths are offset by demographic challenges in its core service area in Kansas and increased competition in the online education market. Competition from larger players has pressured FHSU Online enrollment in recent years and increased during the pandemic. Favorably, though the university anticipated enrollment declines in China through fall 2022, the partnership results are expected to improve again as the student quota for fall 2023 enrollment increases.
The affirmation of the A1 ratings on the Series 2016B and Series 2020C revenue bonds incorporates the issuer rating and general pledge of all university revenues supporting bond repayment.
The stable outlook reflects Moody’s expectations that despite demographic headwinds, FHSU will continue navigating the shifting enrollment landscape by exercising solid expense management and producing at least break-even operating performance with stable liquidity. It also reflects expectations that overall enrollment may decline through fall 2023 but exhibit more stability thereafter.
FACTORS THAT COULD LEAD TO AN UPGRADE OF THE RATINGS
-Significant growth in flexible reserves to cushion enrollment volatility
-Strengthened brand recognition leading to a rebound of growth in net tuition revenue
FACTORS THAT COULD LEAD TO A DOWNGRADE OF THE RATINGS
-Further decline in enrollment leading to weakened financial position via inability to adjust expenses
-Deterioration in financial support from or credit quality of the State of Kansas
-Material decline in liquidity due to weakened operating performance
The university’s general revenue bonds are on parity and secured by a general pledge of all university revenues, excluding certain restricted revenue. In fiscal 2021, pledged revenues amounted to $108 million, about 80% of Moody’s adjusted operating revenue. There is no debt service reserve fund requirement.
Fort Hays State University, founded 1902, is a regional public university in northwest Kansas that serves students globally through multiple platforms. If offers a traditional on-campus experience in Kansas, degrees through online enrollment, and its location in China. For fiscal 2021, the college recorded $135 million of operating revenue and for fall 2021, enrolled 9,237 full-time equivalent students.
The principal methodology used in these ratings was Higher Education Methodology published in August 2021 and available at https://ratings.moodys.com/api/rmc-documents/72158. Alternatively, please see the Rating Methodologies page on https://ratings.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.
For further specification of Moody’s key rating assumptions and sensitivity analysis, see the sections Methodology Assumptions and Sensitivity to Assumptions in the disclosure form. Moody’s Rating Symbols and Definitions can be found on https://ratings.moodys.com/rating-definitions.
For ratings issued on a program, series, category/class of debt or security this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to each rating of a subsequently issued bond or note of the same series, category/class of debt, security or pursuant to a program for which the ratings are derived exclusively from existing ratings in accordance with Moody’s rating practices. For ratings issued on a support provider, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the credit rating action on the support provider and in relation to each particular credit rating action for securities that derive their credit ratings from the support provider’s credit rating. For provisional ratings, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the provisional rating assigned, and in relation to a definitive rating that may be assigned subsequent to the final issuance of the debt, in each case where the transaction structure and terms have not changed prior to the assignment of the definitive rating in a manner that would have affected the rating. For further information please see the issuer/deal page for the respective issuer on https://ratings.moodys.com.
Regulatory disclosures contained in this press release apply to the credit rating and, if applicable, the related rating outlook or rating review.
Moody’s general principles for assessing environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks in our credit analysis can be found at https://ratings.moodys.com/documents/PBC_1288235.
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