President Hillman and certain Trustees mischaracterized Mills' financial situation, which they used to justify rushing into acquisition talks.
According to two experts in Higher Education finances, Mills is NOT in a financial situation that warrants sale or closure. No obvious documents actually exist that support trustees' description of Mills situation as dire.
Mills’ endowment is currently valued at $226 Million. It grew by over $39M (1) in the previous year alone. The college also has over $73M invested in offshore private equity(2) and venture capital funds. As of last year’s audit, Mills is cash positive and successfully paid down its debt.(3)
Despite the administration’s claims of imminent financial disaster, including in their court-sworn declarations, Mills’ revenues grew by 24% -- from $54 million in 2019 to $67 million in 2020.(4)
To put this in perspective, according to US Department of Education IPEDS data, among 136 private nonprofit degree-granting schools with similar enrollment size in the United States - Mills’ revenue ranked 8th highest, better than 94% of its peers.(5)
If Mills College must close, then 94% of private small colleges in the United States must too.
The executive board of trustees has characterized Mills’ debt as life-threatening, but the College’s debt to endowment ratio of 15% makes it far healthier than many schools in the country, including -- ironically -- Northeastern, whose debt to endowment ratio is much worse at 100%. (And certainly no one would claim Northeastern is “going broke.”)
Just months before the announcement, Mills’ administration celebrated that they had raised $9.4M in donations for 2020, $2.6M over their goal.
They made no indication to donors that they were planning to close the college or that it was in desperate financial straits. Yet Hillman would claim just months later that Mills couldn’t possibly be saved because the college couldn't fundraise, despite turning down numerous attempts by the AAMC to assist in fundraising and recruiting.
Mills had just been reaccredited until 2028, in part due to its ability to sustain operations until at least that time.
And in January 2021, the school's auditors rated Mills’ financial health as 2.9 - out of a maximum score of 3 - in the Department of Education’s Financial Responsibility Composite Score.
Auditors stated the College had the resources needed to continue operating indefinitely until provided with evidence to the contrary.(6) *
But just two months after that audit was posted, Hillman announced the closure of Mills College.
(1) Mills’ FY 20-21 Audit, annotated https://bit.ly/3MszHin
(2) Mills’ 990’s FY 19-20 (see Schedule F) https://bit.ly/372jHTX (3) “Irregularities in Mills’ 20-21 Audit” https://youtu.be/PjGOj_3zcKA (4) Audited FY20 Financials https://inside.mills.edu/about-mills/docs/FY20-Audited-Financial-Statements.pdf Page 6 (5) US Dept of Education IPEDS data analysis: https://www.perspectivedatascience-mills.com/page-2, and “Mills College Finances in Comparative Perspective" with Dr. Matthew Hendricks https://youtu.be/pzgjyREIzUE (6) Declaration of Alumnae Trustee Viji Nakka-Cammauf, https://bit.ly/3HKGtfR (Page 4) * Mills’ longtime auditors, Crowe Horwath, suddenly dropped their long standing relationship with Mills and declined to be involved in the FY20-21 audit, likely due to risk factors over the administration’s contradicting financial claims. A sudden change in auditors is never a routine event.