Although a great deal of attention is paid to student debt, colleges and universities have increased their institutional debt substantially over the past several decades. Institutions primarily borrow these funds for capital investments on campus. This may include building new labs and educational facilities, sports arenas, or dormitories.

Institutional borrowing is an important tool that colleges can use to meet strategic goals. However, when unchecked or done irresponsibly, institutional debts can undercut a college’s ability to adequately serve students.

This report aims to better understand how institutional borrowing decisions are made during periods of crisis, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the Great Recession. By better understanding how these decisions are made and the potential impacts of crisis-related choices, the report’s authors hope to inform decision making around debt during future crises.