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Feature Article - June 2018

Colleges & Universities

A Look at Trends in Colleges & Universities


In 2018, college respondents are even less optimistic, with 25.3 percent expecting revenues to increase and 15.4 percent expecting them to decrease. They are slightly more optimistic for 2019, with 30.6 percent expecting an increase and 7.6 percent projecting a decrease.

While overall, respondents reported a decrease of 11.9 percent to operating expenses from 2016 to 2017, college respondents bucked that trend and reported a 1.3 percent increase, from $1,905,000 in 2016 to $1,930,000 in 2017.

Looking forward, college respondents expect their operating costs to grow at a faster clip than the rate for the general survey population. While all respondents reported that they expect operating costs to grow by 6.7 percent between 2017 and 2019, college respondents are expecting an 11.9 percent increase, from an average of $1,930,000 in 2017 to $2,160,000 in 2019.

On average, college respondents report that they recover 33.5 percent of their operating costs via revenue, representing no change from 2017. Colleges and universities have the lowest cost recovery rate of the facilities measured in the survey. More than half (50.9 percent) of college respondents said they recover 30 percent or less of their operating costs via revenue. Another 10.9 percent recover between 31 percent and 50 percent of their operating costs. Some 7.3 percent of college respondents earn back between 51 percent and 70 percent of operating costs. And 15.2 percent of college respondents said they recover 71 percent or more of their operating costs via revenue.

College respondents were less likely than non-college respondents to report that they have taken action to reduce their operating expenses, though a majority said they have done so. Some 76.2 percent of college respondents have taken such action (down from 80.5 percent in 2017), compared with 81 percent of non-college respondents. The most common actions taken by college respondents include improving energy efficiency (40.9 percent of college respondents have done so), reducing staff (33.5 percent), reducing hours of operation (25.6 percent), increasing fees (22.6 percent), and putting construction and renovation plans on hold (22.6 percent).

College respondents were more likely than their counterparts from other types of facilities to report that they have reduced staff or cut their hours of operation. More than one-third (33.5 percent) of college respondents said they have cut staff in order to reduce operating expenses, compared with 27.9 percent of non-college respondents. And while 25.6 percent of college respondents said they have reduced their hours of operation, just 15.5 percent of non-college respondents have done so.

College Facilities

The percentage of college respondents reporting an increase in the number of people using their facilities has fallen substantially over the past couple of years. In the 2017 study, we reported that the number of college respondents reporting an increase fell from 51.9 percent who saw an increase in 2015 to 41.3 percent who saw an increase in 2016. This year, just 38 percent of college respondents said the number of people using their facilities grew from 2016 to 2017. And the percentage who saw usage drop grew from 7.5 percent to 8.4 percent in that time period. (See Figure 48.)


Looking forward, college respondents expect usage to fall again in 2018, with 36.7 percent expecting a drop this year, and 9.6 percent expecting a decrease. They are more positive about growth going forward, with 42.7 percent expecting the number of people using their facilities to grow from 2018 to 2019.

While the number of respondents with construction plans overall has grown over the past several years, for college respondents, those numbers have remained fairly steady, and actually fell in 2018. In fact, in 2018, just 54.1 percent of college respondents said they have plans for construction. This compares with 71.4 percent of non-college respondents who have construction plans.

While the number of college respondents with any construction plans fell, the percentage who are planning to build new facilities actually grew from 21.8 percent in 2017 to 25.9 percent in 2018. Another 22.4 percent of college respondents said they are planning to make additions to existing facilities, and 37.1 percent are planning renovations. (See Figure 49.)


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