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Feature Article - June 2017

Colleges & Universities

A Look at Trends in Colleges & Universities



Over the past decade, there has been much discussion over the runaway costs of attending college. What many don't realize, though, is that some of that rapidly rising cost is due to the fact that states dramatically cut their financial support for public colleges at the onset of the recession, and very few have restored funding. In fact, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 46 states were still spending less per student in the 2015-16 school year than they did before the recession. The average state is spending 18 percent less per student than before the recession. Colleges and universities have been forced to adapt to these changes in financial support, increasing tuition, cutting faculty, reducing course offerings and eliminating some services.

This state of affairs continues to be reflected in the results of the Industry Report survey, where college and university respondents, who made up 11.2 percent of survey respondents in 2017, continue to struggle with revenue vs. costs.

As usual, the largest number of college respondents, 29 percent, were located in the Midwest. The next largest group, at 20.1 percent, were from the South Atlantic region. They were followed by the Northeast and South Central states—each region was home to 19.6 percent of college and university respondents. The smallest number of college respondents were found in the West, with 10.3 percent. Another 1.4 percent of college respondents were located outside of the United States.

The largest percentage of college respondents in 2017 were from urban communities. Some 37.6 percent of college respondents said they were from urban areas. The remainder of college respondents were split fairly evenly among rural and suburban communities. Some 31.9 percent of college respondents were located in the suburbs, while 30.5 percent were found in rural communities.

On average, college respondents said they serve a population of 35,700 people, up from 33,100 in 2016. College respondents were much more likely to report that they had a population of 20,000 or less than non-college respondents. Nearly three-quarters (72.1 percent) of college respondents said their population was 20,000 or less, compared to 43.9 percent of non-college respondents. Conversely, just 6 percent of college respondents said they reached an audience of 100,000 or more, while 24.3 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 64.4 percent of these respondents said they were with public organizations. Another 31.5 percent were with private nonprofits, while 4.2 percent said they were with private, for-profit organizations.

Respondents from colleges and universities managed an average of 4.9 facilities. They were more likely than non-college respondents to report that they managed between one and three facilities. Seven out of 10 (70 percent) college respondents said they manage between one and three facilities, compared with 58 percent of non-college respondents. Likewise, while 19.3 percent of non-college respondents said they manage 10 or more facilities, only 8.9 percent of college respondents said they manage 10 or more.

College respondents were much less likely than non-college respondents to report that they had formed partnerships with other organizations, though a majority had done so. Some 79.6 percent of college respondents said they had partnered with other organizations, compared with 87.8 percent of non-college respondents. The most common partnerships for college respondents were formed with other colleges and universities. In fact, 57.8 percent of college respondents said they had partnered with other colleges and universities, compared with 31.6 percent of non-college respondents. The other most common partners for college respondents include: local schools (38.4 percent of college respondents had partnered with them), state government (28.9 percent), local government (26.5 percent) and nonprofit organizations (25.6 percent).