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Feature Article - June 2018

Colleges & Universities

A Look at Trends in Colleges & Universities



Long after the Great Recession, colleges and universities have still not seen funding cuts restored, for the most part. In a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, titled "A Lost Decade in Higher Education Funding," the authors assert, "Overall state funding for public two- and four-year colleges in the 2017 school year was nearly $9 billion below its 2008 level, after adjusting for inflation. The funding decline has contributed to higher tuition and reduced quality on campuses as colleges have had to balance budgets by reducing faculty, limiting course offerings and in some cases closing campuses."

Of course, campus recreation and sports programs also have seen cuts as funding has dwindled, though many schools still invest in these programs as a way to boost quality of life for existing students while providing an attractive asset to boost recruitment.

Here, we'll take a look at how some of these trends are affecting our Industry Report survey respondents who represent colleges and universities, making up 10.8 percent of survey respondents in 2018.

As usual, the largest number of college respondents, 28.5 percent, are located in the Midwest. The next largest group, at 21.2 percent, are from the Northeast. They were followed by the West, with 18.2 percent, and South Central region, with 17.6 percent. The smallest number of college respondents are from the South Atlantic, with 14.5 percent. No college and university respondents reported from outside of the United States.

The largest percentage of college respondents in 2018 are from suburban communities. Some 38.3 percent of college respondents said they are from suburban areas. They were followed by urban college respondents, making up 35.9 percent of the group. They are least likely to be located in rural areas. Some 25.7 percent of college respondents said they are from rural communities.

On average, college respondents said they serve an average population of 43,910 people, up from 35,700 in 2017. College respondents are more likely than non-college respondents to report that they serve a population of 20,000 or fewer. More than two-thirds (67.3 percent) of college respondents said they reach 20,000 or fewer people, compared with 45.9 percent of non-college respondents. Conversely, while just 6 percent of college respondents reach an audience of 100,000 or more, 19.3 percent of non-college respondents reach a population of at least 100,000.

More than half (52.9 percent) of college respondents said they are with public colleges and universities. Another 38.2 percent are with private nonprofits, 4.1 percent are with for-profit organizations, and 4.7 percent listed their organization type as "other."

Respondents from colleges and universities manage an average of 4.4 facilities. They were more likely than non-college respondents to report that they manage between one and three facilities. Around two-thirds (66.5 percent) of college respondents said they manage between one and three facilities, compared with 58.9 percent of non-college respondents. Likewise, while 18.1 percent of non-college respondents said they manage 10 or more facilities, only 7.8 percent of college respondents said they manage 10 or more.

College respondents were far less likely than non-college respondents to report that they had partnered with other organizations, though a majority have done so. Some 79.5 percent of college respondents said they have formed such partnerships, compared with 87.5 percent of non-college respondents. The most common partners for college respondents are other colleges and universities. In fact, 61.4 percent of college respondents said they have partnered with other colleges and universities. Other partners for college respondents include: local schools (40.4 percent of college respondents had partnered with them), state government (30.7 percent), local government (24.1 percent) and nonprofit organizations (18.1 percent).

Revenues & Expenditures

College and university respondents continue to struggle with revenues and budgets. While a slightly greater number of college respondents said their budgets increased from 2016 to 2017 than from 2015 to 2016, there was also an increase in the percentage reporting lower revenues in that time period. Some 26.3 percent of college respondents said their revenues increased from 2016 to 2017, and 13.8 percent said they saw a decrease in revenues. (See Figure 47.)


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