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Feature Article - June 2019
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Colleges & Universities

A Look at Trends in Colleges & Universities


While states have restored some funding to public colleges and universities, state spending still remains well below historical levels a decade after the Great Recession, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In a report titled, "Unkept Promises: State Cuts to Higher Education Threaten Access and Equity," the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities states, "Overall state funding for public two- and four-year colleges in the school year ending in 2018 was more than $7 billion below its 2008 level, after adjusting for inflation."

Schools have adjusted by raising tuition and fees, while cutting services, increasing the debt burden on students and their families while providing fewer course offerings and other services. Campus recreation and sports programs have not been spared as funding has dwindled, though many schools still see these types of programs as a crucial tool for boosting interest from prospective students, as well as quality of life for existing students.

In this section, we'll examine the trends reported by college and university respondents to the Industry Report survey, making up 10.6 percent of all survey respondents in 2019.

Respondents from colleges and universities were slightly more geographically dispersed than other respondents. More than one-quarter (27.3 percent) were located in the Midwest. The next largest group, 22.7 percent, were located in the South Atlantic states. Another 18 percent were found in the West, while 17.3 percent were in the South Central region, and 14.7 percent were in the Northeast.

College respondents in 2019 were more likely to be found in urban communities. Some 37.6 percent of college respondents said they are located in urban areas. They were followed by suburban college respondents, making up a little more than a third (33.6 percent) of the group. They were least likely to be found in rural areas, though 28.8 percent of college respondents said they were located in rural communities.

On average, college respondents said they serve a population of 22,420 people, significantly lower than the average of 43,910 reported in 2018. College respondents are more likely than non-college respondents to report that they serve a population of 20,000 or fewer, and are far less likely to serve 100,000 or more. Nearly two-thirds (66.4 percent) of college respondents said they reach 20,000 or fewer people, compared with 41.1 percent of non-college respondents. Conversely, only 2.7 percent of college respondents said they reach an audience of 100,000 or more, while 22.5 percent of non-college respondents reach a population of at least 100,000.

A majority (64 percent) of college respondents said they were with public colleges and universities. Another 30.7 percent were private nonprofit schools, while 5.3 percent said they were private, for-profit schools.

Respondents from colleges and universities manage an average of 4.4 facilities, representing no change from 2018. They were more likely than non-college respondents to report that they manage between one and three facilities, and much less likely to manage 10 or more. Just over two-thirds (67.3 percent) of college respondents said they manage between one and three facilities, compared with 53.9 percent of non-college respondents. At the same time, while 8 percent of college respondents said they manage 10 or more facilities, 21.1 percent of non-college respondents manage at least 10 facilities.

College respondents were less likely than non-college respondents to report that they had partnered with other organizations, though a majority had done so. Some 78.5 percent of college respondents said they had formed such partnerships, compared with 89 percent of non-college respondents. The most common partners for college respondents were other colleges and universities. Some 62.4 percent of college respondents said they had partnered with other colleges and universities. Other more common partners for college respondents include: local schools (37.6 percent of college respondents had partnered with them); local government (27.5 percent); state government (26.8 percent); and nonprofit organizations (26.2 percent).