Queen's University by the Numbers: An Intuitive Financial Analysis For Students
Last updated May 13, 2019
With tuition on the rise and the increasing difficulty of being able to afford university, a financial analysis, without the hard-to-understand financial jargon, is something a lot of students could benefit from right now.
To encourage students to be more aware of where their money is going, we closely inspected the past 5 years of financial statements of Queen’s University (year-end: 2014-2018) to provide greater clarity to students on how their student fees are used.
This analysis is broken into three sections: Financial Overview, Student Fees, and Endowments.
The Financial Overview section will look at a few main metrics such as net income, profit margins, and performance based on fund (this will be explained below).
The Student Fees will look at the change in student fees over the years and how it compares and contrasts with other items such as student assistance, total capital asset investment, salaries and benefits for employees, inflation, etc.
The Endowments section will analyze total endowments (typically donations to the university), endowment contribution, and endowment investment income (how the endowments are being used to be invested to generate more revenue).
This report will attempt to simplify the financial statements of universities and help Queen’s students have a better understanding of the financial workings of their university.
*This analysis is inclusive of all students (undergraduate, graduate, international, domestic, etc.)
*For reference, "excess of revenues over expenses" = Net Income.
Queen’s statements of operations are prepared using the concepts of fund accounting. This means the activities of the institution are segmented by fund to enhance accountability and control.
Queen’s consists of the following funds: Operating, Ancillaries, Trust and Endowments, Research, Capital, and Consolidated Entities.
Operating includes teaching and administrative activities. Operating revenue includes government operating grants, student fees, unrestricted investment income.
Ancillaries provide goods and services to the university community. Such as student residence services, campus bookstore, conference and catering services, parking, etc.
Trust and Endowments are funds received typically by donors that are restricted for a certain purpose. These are restricted funds which means they can only be used for particular purposes and not for anything else. However, the capital can be invested to earn investment income which is available for spending in an unrestricted way.
Research is all research-related activity on campus. Research revenue/funding comes from the federal and provincial governments, and various not-for-profit organizations (Cancer Society, Heart and Stroke Foundation, etc.)
Capital is all activity regarding capital infrastructure on campus, such as land, buildings, etc. It encompasses amortization (depreciation) of capital assets, interest payable on debt to fund capital projects, renovations and alterations, etc.
Consolidated entities include joint ventures and partnerships with other organizations to operate some of their commercial operations. Some consolidated entities at Queen’s are the Bader International Study Centre, the Queen’s University Pooled Trust Fund, Queen’s Prison Law Clinic.
*Interfund transfers is not a fund but it consists of transfers of money between funds. Transfers can include from the operating fund to the capital fund or research fund for capital projects or internally sponsored research, respectively. It could also include from the ancillaries fund to the operating fund to support operations.
Breakdown of Financial Performance based on Fund
Looking at the performance before interfund transfers shows how each fund has been performing as a standalone unit without reliance on or financially assisting other funds.
The operating fund’s net income has been growing every year except in 2016 which was largely due to increases of salaries and benefits, supplies and services, and works of art expenses and a significant decrease in investment income.
The net income of the ancillaries and trust and endowment funds have been positive and stable.
The research, consolidated entities, and capital funds have been hovering around the $0 baseline or is in the negatives which is understandable since these are funds that consist largely of expenses due to investments into capital projects, research projects, etc.
Operating funds are significantly lower than total funds
Total excess of revenues over expenses, of course, includes all revenues and expenses from all funds. However, it is worth isolating and analyzing the operating fund’s performance as operating funds are typically unrestricted, meaning that the university can use them for any purpose consistent with its overall goals.
So, it can be seen that the amount of unrestricted money that is able to be spent and reinvested into the university or students (as long as it aligns with the universities overall goals), is significantly lower than its total net income.
However, with both total and operating metrics, the graph shows that there has generally been positive growth in terms of net income (excess of revenues over expenses) from 2014-2018, even with a decline in excess of revenues over expenses from 2015-2016 and 2017-2018.
Margins have been on an Increasing Trend
Profit margin is calculated by dividing net income (the difference of revenue and expenses) by revenue to show how much profit is being generated for every dollar of revenue. In 2017, Queen’s University had a profit margin of 9.38% which means that for every dollar of revenue, 9.38 cents was made in profit.
The operating margin is calculated the same way but just with the operating excess of revenues over expenses and the operating revenues.
Both the profit margin and the operating margin for Queen’s has fluctuated a bit these past few years but the trendlines for both margins show a steady overall increase.
When paying tens of thousands of dollars in student fees (including tuition, student health, recreation and athletics fees), students can’t help but wonder what exactly their fees are going towards.
Since it is possible that an increase in total student fee revenue can be attributable to a higher overall enrolment count, we decided to look at the trend of student fees per student when appropriate, to get a more accurate picture of how student fees for the average student have changed over the years.
Student Fees Per Student Increased 3.4x More than Inflation
When looking at the student fees per student at Queen’s University, it increases significantly year over year. From $12,018 in 2013 (in 2017 dollars) to $14,375 in 2017, student fees per student increased 19.61% from 2013-2017 while inflation from 2013-2017 was only 5.7%. Student fees per student increased 3.4x more than inflation in these years.
Student Fees Per Student Increased ~20% from 2013 to 2017
Using this metric, we can see how student fees have changed while considering any enrolment increases and inflation as the numbers are in 2017 dollars. Student fees per student have grown steadily year over year at an average annual rate of about 4.6%, still outpacing the average annual rate of inflation of 1.39% from 2013-2017.
Student Fees Per Student Increase Rate Outpaces Maximum Allowed Tuition Increase AND Inflation Each Year
Breaking it down year by year, there is a significant difference between how much student fees per student have increased vs. the average annual inflation rate in Canada of 1.39% and the maximum that aggregate tuition can increase per year (3% based on the current provincial framework).
Student fees per student have increased at a rate much higher than both the average annual inflation rate and the maximum tuition growth rate each year.
Total Student Fees Increased 3x More than Student Assistance (financial assistance for students)
As student fees have increased $108.2M from 2014 to 2018 (year-end) ($245.8M in 2014 to $354M in 2018), the amount of student assistance (in the form of scholarships, bursaries, and other financial aid for students) has increased only $8.6M ($55.4M in 2014 to $64M in 2018).
That’s a 44% increase for student fees and only a 15% increase for student assistance, making the student fee increase 3x more than the student assistance increase.
The Excess of Student Fees over Capital Asset Investment grew 1518% from 2014-2018
Comparing student fees and the amount invested into capital assets (land, building, equipment, etc.), their respective amounts were nearly 1:1 in 2014 but the gap between them increased each subsequent year. The difference between the amounts was $9.3M in 2014 but grew exponentially to a difference of $151M in 2018 which is a 1518% increase.
It’s also worth noting that student fees have been increasing year over year while total capital asset investment was decreasing each year except for 2017-2018 where it increased 13%. This was largely due to two significant capital projects - the creation of Queen’s Innovation and Wellness Centre (Mitchell Hall) and a renovation/revitalization of campus biomedical research facilities.
Student Fees Increased by 9.55% on Average Each Year Vs. a 1.71% Average Increase in Salaries and Benefits Each Year
There is a significant difference in the rates of change each year when comparing Student Fees and Salaries and Benefits.
Each year, total student fees increased by 9.55% on average while Salaries and Benefits increased only by 1.71% on average. Also worth noting is that there was a decline in Salaries and Benefits paid from 2013-2014 to 2014-2015 while Student Fees Increased by more than 9%.
Endowments are essentially money or other financial assets donated to Queen’s to support many activities such as investing to grow the principal, paying for capital expenditures, etc.
Total Endowments has been Steadily Increasing Each Year
Total endowments include endowment contributions from donors, how much the endowments have earned (through an endowment fund that is used to invest into different assets), and how much was in the endowment account cumulatively from the past.
In 2014, total endowment was at $800M and since then has grown to almost $1.1B in 2018. The cause of this increase is largely due to the investment income generated from endowments and the endowment contributions (donations) made to the school.
Investment Income from Endowments Fluctuate Significantly but has Resulted in Positive Returns Each Year
Endowment investment income has been positive each year with amounts of over $100M in 2014, 2015, and 2017. Although endowment investment has historically fluctuated quite a bit, there have been positive investment returns each year since 2014.
There are many different assets that Queen’s University invests in. The assets consist of cash & cash equivalents, equity, fixed income securities, and private equity.
Cash and cash equivalents consists of assets that are cash or can be converted into cash immediately. Such as actual cash, bank accounts, short-term government bonds, etc.
Equity typically consists of investments into shares or stocks of companies. A few companies Queen’s University has invested in are Domino’s Pizza, Yelp, and Adidas.
Fixed income securities are investments that provides a return in fixed periodic interest payments. A couple fixed income securities that Queen’s University has invested in are Hydro One and Sun Life.
Private equity typically consists of investing in private equity firms who then strategically invest those funds into developing new products and technologies, expand working capital, make acquisitions, or strengthen a company’s balance sheet.
Endowment Contributions (Donations) Has Been Healthy Each Year
Endowment contribution has grown slightly year over year since 2014, with a very significant spike in 2015 which was largely due to the incredibly generous $50M donation from Stephen J.R. Smith. The donation was set to be split over the next few years from 2015 and on.
There are of course almost an endless amount of metrics and numbers that could be looked at when analyzing the financial performance of a university.
However, to keep things simple and easy to understand, we curated the trends and metrics that all students should be aware of, especially since attending university is now costing students over $14,000 per year and doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
This report is intended to be a basic analysis of Queen's University's financial statements from an objective perspective to familiarize students with their university's finances.