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Feature Article - June 2017

Colleges & Universities

A Look at Trends in Colleges & Universities


Revenues & Expenditures

As mentioned previously, college and university respondents continue to struggle financially. While most respondents are increasingly likely to report that their revenues are growing year-over-year, the percentage of college respondents reporting increasing revenues has fallen significantly. While one-third (33.3 percent) of college respondents said revenues grew from 2014 to 2015, only 23 percent said revenues had increased from 2015 to 2016. Another 12.4 percent said revenues had fallen. (See Figure 47.)


Looking forward, the percentage of college respondents who expect revenues to increase holds fairly steady, with 23.3 percent expecting revenues to grow in 2017 and 21.9 percent expecting growth in 2018. At the same time, the number expecting revenues to decrease grows to 13.6 percent for 2017 before falling to 9.2 percent for 2018.

After reporting decreases to operating expenses for 2014 and 2015, college respondents saw a slight increase in operating expenditures this year. College respondents' average operating cost grew 6.4 percent from 2015 to 2016, from $1,790,000 to $1,905,000. This growth rate was much slower than the average growth reported for all respondents between 2015 and 2016, of 17.5 percent.

Looking forward, college respondents are expecting their operating costs to grow at about double the rate of the general survey population. While all respondents projected a 3.5 percent growth in operating costs between 2016 and 2018, college respondents projected that their average operating expenditure would grow 7.1 percent, to $2,040,000 in 2018.

On average, college respondents report that they recover 33.5 percent of their operating costs via revenue, down slightly from last year, when 35.5 percent of costs were recovered. More than half (50.2 percent) of college respondents said that they recover 30 percent or less of their operating costs via revenue. Another 6.8 percent recover between 31 percent and 50 percent of their operating costs. Some 7.8 percent said they earn back between 51 percent and 70 percent of their operating costs. And 14.6 percent of college respondents said they recover 71 percent or more of their operating costs via revenues.

College respondents were slightly less likely to report that they had taken action to reduce their operating expenditures, though a majority said they had done so. Some 80.5 percent of college respondents had taken such action, while 83.7 percent of non-college respondents had done so. The most common actions taken by college respondents include: improving energy efficiency (43.8 percent of college respondents had done so), reducing staff (36.7 percent), putting construction and renovation plans on hold (31 percent), increasing fees (27.6 percent) and reducing hours of operation (27.6 percent).

College respondents were more likely than their counterparts from other types of facilities to report that they had cut staff, cut programs or services, or reduced their hours in order to lower their operating costs. While 30.6 percent of non-college respondents said they had cut staff, 36.7 percent of college respondents had done so. More than one-quarter (25.7 percent) of college respondents said they had made program and service cuts, compared with 17.8 percent of non-college respondents. And while 27.6 percent of college respondents said they had reduced their hours of operation, only 15.3 percent of non-college respondents had done so.

College Facilities

The percentage of college respondents reporting an increase in the number of people using their facilities fell from 2015 to 2016, with 51.9 percent reporting an increase and 41.3 percent reporting an increase in 2016. At the same time, the percentage of college respondents who saw usage drop grew from 6.9 percent to 7.5 percent. (See Figure 48.)