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Feature Article - June 2015

Colleges & Universities

A Look at Trends in Colleges & Universities


Funding for higher education continues to lag below pre-recession levels according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. While many states have begun to restore funding to their higher education systems, they are doing so at a relatively slow rate, and 47 states are still spending less per student than they did before the recession. As a result, public colleges and universities have been raising tuition and making spending cuts. And, indeed, the Industry Report survey shows that colleges and universities see revenues largely holding steady instead of increasing, and these respondents were among the only ones who are less likely to be planning construction than they were last year.

The largest number of college and university respondents to the Industry Report survey came from the Midwest. More than three out of 10 (30.3 percent) college respondents reported that they were located in the Midwest. The next largest group—at 22 percent—were from the Northeast. They were followed by the South Atlantic region (17.5 percent), the South Central region (17.2 percent) and the West (13.1 percent).

College respondents were much more likely to be from urban areas than non-college respondents, and simultaneously were much less likely to report from suburban and rural communities. While 40.9 percent of college respondents said they were located in urban communities, just 21.2 percent of non-college respondents were in urban areas. And, while one-third (33 percent) of college respondents were in suburban areas, 43.7 percent of non-college respondents were located in the suburbs. Finally, some 26.1 percent of college respondents were located in rural communities, compared with 35.1 percent of non-college respondents.

A majority of college respondents—59.9 percent—indicated that they work for public organizations. Another 32 percent said they worked for private, nonprofit organizations, and 7.1 percent said they were with private, for-profit organizations.

On average, college respondents manage 4.6 facilities, slightly lower than the average for all facility types of 6.6. College respondents were more likely than non-college respondents to report that they manage between one and three facilities. Some 63.9 percent of college respondents said they manage one to three facilities, compared with just 59.5 percent of non-college respondents that manage one to three facilities.

Though a majority of college respondents reported that they formed partnerships with outside organizations, they were less likely to do so than non-college respondents. While 81.3 percent of college respondents had formed such partnerships, 91.3 percent of non-college respondents had done so. The most common partner for college respondents was other colleges and universities. Some 59.7 percent of college respondents said they had partnered with other colleges and universities, compared with just 30 percent of non-college respondents. The other most common partners for college respondents include: local schools (35.6 percent of college respondents had partnered with them); state government (29.8 percent); nonprofit organizations (22.9 percent); and local government (21.3 percent).

Revenues & Expenditures

Reflecting the report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, college respondents in 2015 were more likely to report that their revenues had fallen from 2013 to 2014. While 8.4 percent of respondents in 2014 projected revenues to decrease from 2013 to 2014, this year, 10.1 percent said revenues had actually fallen. Another 58.6 percent said revenues had remained the same. (See Figure 45.) Looking forward, college respondents are much more likely to expect revenues to remain the same than increase over the next two years. From 2014 to 2015, 61.4 percent said they expect revenues to remain the same, and another 60.4 percent expect steady revenues from 2015 to 2016. At the same time, 33.1 percent of college respondents expect revenues to increase from 2014 to 2015, and 30.9 percent expect an increase in 2016.

After reporting a modest increase in yearly operating expenditures from 2012 to 2013, college respondents saw a dramatic increase in operating expenditures in 2014. From fiscal 2012 to 2013, college respondents reported a 5.1 percent increase from $1,267,000 to $1,332,000 on average. From fiscal 2013 to 2014, there was a 36.6 percent increase in the average operating expenditures reported by college respondents, with an increase to an average of $1,820,000. Looking forward, college respondents reported that they expect their average operating expenditures will increase by 9.1 percent from fiscal 2014 to 2016, to an average of $1,986,000.

College respondents are among those who were least likely to report that they had taken actions to reduce their operating expenditures over the past year. Some 78.7 percent of college respondents said they had done so, compared with 85.1 percent of non-college respondents. The most common actions college respondents had taken include: improving energy efficiency (47.3 percent had done so); reducing staff (27 percent); putting construction or renovation plans on hold (26.7 percent); increasing fees (23.7 percent); and reducing their hours of operation (20 percent). The only action that colleges were more likely to take than non-college respondents was reducing their hours of operation. Among non-college respondents, 18.1 percent reported they had taken this measure.