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Feature Article - June 2016

Colleges & Universities

A Look at Trends in Colleges & Universities



A recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that while some states have begun to restore the deep cuts they made in their financial support for public colleges when the recession hit, funding is still far lower than previous levels. Years of cuts and the fact that funding has not been fully restored mean that 45 states spent less per student in 2015-16 than they did prior to the onset of the recession. All told, the report states that for the current school year, and after adjusting for inflation, funding for public two- and four-year colleges is $8.7 billion lower than just prior to the recession.

This is reflected in the responses from colleges and universities, who made up 11.2 percent of our 2016 survey population. They were less likely than many others to report that revenues were increasing, and at the same time are trying to find ways to cut costs.

The largest number of college respondents, 29.9 percent, were located in the Midwest. The next largest group—at 29.9 percent—were from the Northeast. They were followed by the South Atlantic region (19.2 percent) the South Central region (15 percent) and the West 10.3 percent. Another 2.6 percent of college respondents were located outside the United States.

While the majority of college respondents in 2015 were located in urban areas, this year, the majority were from suburban communities. Some 42.9 percent of college respondents said they were located in the suburbs. The rest of the college respondents were split almost evenly between urban and rural communities. Some 28.3 percent of college respondents were found in rural communities, and 27.8 percent were located in urban areas.

On average, college respondents said they serve a population of 33,100 people. College respondents were much more likely to report that they had a population of 20,000 or less than non-college respondents. More than two-thirds (67.8 percent) of college respondents said their population was 20,000 or less, compared to 44 percent of non-college respondents. Conversely, only 5.5 percent of college respondents said they served a population of 100,000 or more, while 21.2 percent of non-college respondents served a population of at least 100,000.

A majority of college respondents said they were from public colleges and universities. Some 61.2 percent of these respondents indicated they were with a public organization. Another 32.5 percent were with private nonprofits, while 5.9 percent were with private for-profit organizations, and 0.4 percent were with some "other" type of organization.

Respondents from colleges and universities managed an average of 4.4 facilities. They were more likely than non-college respondents to report that they managed between one and three facilities. Some 68.7 percent of college respondents said they managed between one and three facilities, while 57.9 percent of non-college respondents managed one to three facilities. Likewise, while 18.8 percent of non-college respondents said they managed 10 or more facilities, only 6 percent of college respondents said they'd managed 10 or more.

College respondents were less likely than non-college respondents to report that they had formed partnerships with other organizations. Some 80 percent of college respondents formed partnerships with other organizations, compared with 88.2 percent of non-college respondents. The most common partnerships for college respondents were formed with other colleges and universities. In fact, 57.4 percent of college respondents partnered with other colleges and universities, while 29 percent of non-college respondents partnered with colleges. Other commonly formed partnerships for college respondents include: local schools (38.7 percent of college respondents had partnered with them); state government (30.2 percent); local government (27.7 percent); and nonprofit organizations (25.1 percent).

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