Trends in Colleges & Universities
A Look at Trends in Colleges and Universities
In the next pages, we'll take a closer look at the responses from professionals at colleges and universities, who made up 10.1% of the survey respondents, down from 13.6% in 2021.
This year, more than six in 10 college respondents were from either the Northeast or the Midwest. Some 30.9% of college respondents said they were located in the Northeast, and another 30.9% were located in the Midwest. The next largest group, 23.6%, were from the South Atlantic region. Just 7.3% of college respondents were located in the South Central region, and 7.3% were located in the Western states.
College respondents were most likely to be from suburban communities. Some 43.6% said they were located in the suburbs. Another 29.1% said they were from urban communities, and 27.3% were located in rural areas.
College respondents reach an average population of 18,200 people, down from 32,110 in 2021. Nearly three-quarters (73.2%) of college respondents said they reach a population of 20,000 or fewer people, compared with 50.9% of non-college respondents. And just 1.8% of college respondents said they reach a population of 100,000 or more, compared with 18.6% of non-college respondents.
A majority of college respondents (57.9%) said they were with public colleges and universities. Another 36.8% were with private, nonprofit schools, and 3.5% said they were with private, for-profit schools.
On average, college respondents manage 3.2 facilities, down from 3.7 in 2021, and 5.1 in 2020. They were slightly more likely to manage three or fewer facilities than non-college respondents, while being very unlikely to manage 10 or more. More than seven in 10 (70.2%) college respondents said they manage one to three individual facilities. This compares with 67% of non-college respondents. And while 15.3% of non-college respondents said they manage 10 or more individual facilities, just 5.3% of college respondents have at least 10 facilities to manage.
College and university respondents were slightly less likely than others to report that they had partnered with other organizations, though a majority had done so. Some 80% of college respondents said they had formed partnerships with other organizations, compared with 82.9% of non-college respondents. College respondents were more likely than others to report that they had partnered with other colleges and universities, as well as with state government. Nearly two-thirds (65.5%) of college respondents said they had partnered with other colleges and universities, compared with just 25.4% of non-college respondents. And while 40% of college respondents had partnered with state government, 31.6% of non-college respondents had done so. Other relatively common partners for colleges and universities included local schools (36.4%), local government (27.3%) and nonprofit organizations (25.5%).
Revenues & Expenditures
After being the least likely to report revenue increases in 2020, respondents from colleges and universities were still among the least likely to see an increase in 2021, and were the most likely to report that revenues had fallen in 2021. Some 46.3% of college respondents said their revenues decreased in 2021, compared with 24.6% of non-college respondents. Another 27.8% of college respondents said their revenues in 2021 had remained unchanged, while 25.9% reported an increase. (See Figure 50.)
In 2022, college respondents are beginning to expect a return to normal, though they were still among the most likely to expect revenues to decrease. Nearly half (46.3%) of college respondents said they expect their revenues to increase in 2022, while 29.6% expect no change, and 24.1% expect a decrease. They were more optimistic about 2023, with 60.8% expecting revenues to increase, 31.4% expecting no change, and 7.8% expecting a decrease.
While the general survey population reported a decrease to average operating costs from 2020 to 2021, college respondents reported a steeper decline. Respondents from colleges and universities reported an average operating expenditure of $1,380,000 in 2021, 14.3% lower than the average for 2020 of $1,610,000. This compares with a 5.2% decrease for the general survey population.
Looking forward, college respondents are expecting a sharp increase to operating costs in 2022, more than making up for the previous year's decrease. Their average for 2022 was $1,660,000, an increase of 20.3% over 2021. This is followed by a 5.4% projected increase from 2022 to 2023, to an average of $1,750,000.
On average, college respondents said they recover an average of 50.6% of their operating costs via revenues, up from 42.8% in 2021. They were more likely than non-college respondents to report that they recover 30% or less of their operating costs. More than a third (34.6%) of college respondents said they recover 30% or less of their operating cost via revenues, compared with 25.2% of non-college respondents. Another 21.2% of college respondents said they recover between 31% and 70% of their costs via revenues, and 28.8% recover 71% or more (up from 22.8% in 2021).
The No. 1 source of revenues for colleges and university respondents' facilities, not surprisingly, is tuition and fees. More than eight in 10 (81.8%) college respondents said tuition and fees were a source of funding for their facilities, compared with just 34.6% of non-college respondents. The next most common sources of revenue for college respondents were: membership and admission fees (60%), rentals and private events (54.5%), individual donations (25.5%), and corporate donations (14.5%).
In most years, college respondents are slightly less likely than the average respondent to report that they had taken action to reduce their operating expenses, but that trend has reversed for the past two years. In 2021, 93.3% of college respondents had taken such action, and in 2022, 90.9% of college respondents said they had taken action to reduce their operating costs (compared with 89.6% and 83.4% of non-college respondents, respectively). College respondents were more likely than non-college respondents to have: reduced their hours of operation (70.9% of college respondents vs. 37.2% of non-college respondents), reduced staff (58.2% vs. 39.7%), cut programming or services (56.4% vs. 30.1%), closed facilities temporarily (38.2% vs. 16.6%), put construction or renovation plans on hold (32.7% vs. 31.6%), or instituted a hiring freeze (23.6% vs. 6%).
After having a major impact on facility usage in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic appeared to continue to depress numbers of users for college and university facilities in 2021. In 2020, 63.6% of college respondents said the number of people using their facilities had fallen. And in 2021, 42.9% saw a decrease in the number of people using their facilities. A quarter (25%) of college respondents said the number of people using their facilities in 2021 was the same as in 2020, and nearly a third (32.1%) reported an increase. (See Figure 51.)
Nearly half (48.2%) of college respondents said they expect the number of people using their facilities to be higher in 2022, with 32.1% expecting no change and 19.6% expecting a decrease. They were more positive about 2023, with 56.9% expecting usage of their facilities to increase, 39.2% expecting levels to remain the same, and 3.9% expecting a decrease.
Respondents from colleges and universities were far less likely than other respondents to report that they had plans for construction over the next few years. Some 56.1% of college respondents said they have such plans (up from 52.7% in 2021), compared with 72.1% of non-college respondents.
That said, the numbers of college respondents planning various types of construction in 2022 are more aligned with pre-pandemic numbers. Some 22.8% of college respondents said they have plans to build new facilities, up from 20.7% in 2021. Another 22.8% said they have plans to make additions to their existing facilities, up from 19.7%. And 45.6% of college respondents said they have plans for renovations at their existing facilities, up from 39.9% in 2021. (See Figure 52.)
After reporting a substantial decrease to their average budget for construction from 2020 to 2021, college respondents saw their average construction budget remain virtually unchanged in 2022. Respondents from colleges and universities had an average planned cost for construction of $7,690,000 in 2021, 14.7% lower than in 2020, when the average was $9,020,000. In 2022, the average budget for construction for college respondents was $7,640,000, just 0.7% less than in 2021. College respondents are still among the biggest spenders when it comes to construction, with an average budget that is 81.9% higher than the average for all respondents ($4,200,000).
The features most commonly included in college and university respondents' facilities don't change much from year to year. The 10 most common features in 2022 include: fitness centers, locker rooms, indoor sports courts for sports like basketball and volleyball, exercise studio rooms, classrooms and meeting rooms, outdoor sports courts for sports like basketball and tennis, indoor walking and running tracks, natural turf sports fields, indoor aquatic facilities, and, tied for the 10th spot, bleachers and seating, and synthetic turf sports fields. Indoor aquatic facilities and synthetic turf fields were not among the 10 most common features in 2021, having risen in the list to replace Wi-Fi services.
Non-college respondents were somewhat more likely to report in 2022 that they had plans to add features at their facilities over the next several years. Some 39.9% of non-college respondents had such plans, compared with 31.6% of college respondents. That said, this is a substantial increase over 2021 for college respondents. In 2021, just 23.9% of college respondents were planning to add features at their facilities.
The most commonly planned additions for college respondents in 2022 include:
- Synthetic turf sports fields (planned by 33.3% of college respondents with plans to add features)
- Concession areas (33.3%)
- Locker rooms (27.8%)
- Exercise studio rooms (22.2%)
- Bleachers and seating (22.2%)
- Indoor sports courts (22.2%)
- Classrooms and meeting rooms (22.2%)
- Outdoor tracks (22.2%)
- Indoor tracks (16.8%)
- Outdoor sports courts (11.1%)
The number of college respondents who offer programming of some kind at their facilities has remained steady over the past few years. Some 96.4% of college respondents in 2022 said they currently have programming. This compares with 96.7% in 2021 and 96% in 2020.
Fitness programs still top the list of most commonly offered programs among college respondents. Some 85.7% of college respondents said they currently offer fitness programs, up from 81.5% in 2021.
Other common programs at college and university facilities include: group exercise programs (76.8%, up from 71.2%), mind-body balance programs like yoga (69.6%, up from 65.2%), sports tournaments and races (60.7%, up from 46.2%), adult sports teams (58.9%, up from 56.5%), functional fitness programs (55.4%, virtually unchanged from 56%), individual sports activities like running clubs or swim clubs (55.4%, up from 47.8%), educational programs (48.2%, down from 49.5%), personal training (48.2% down from 50%), and swimming programs (42.9%, down from 47.8%).
More than one-third (35.1%) of college respondents in 2022 said they have plans to add programs at their facilities over the next few years. This is up from 29.8% in 2021 and 2020.
College and university respondents' top 10 planned program additions include:
- Functional fitness programs (up from No. 3 in 2021)
- Mind-body balance programs like yoga (up from No. 4)
- Group exercise programs (down from No. 3)
- Personal training (up from No. 8)
- Fitness programs (down from No. 2)
- Educational programs (up from No. 9)
- Adult sports teams (did not appear in the top 10 for 2021)
- Sports tournaments and races (did not appear in 2021)
- Individual sports activities like running clubs (did not appear in 2021)
- Swimming programs (down from No.7)
Rising into the top 10 for 2021 are adult sports teams, sports tournaments and races, and individual sports activities. These replace nutrition and diet counseling, day camps and summer camps, and aquatic exercise programs. RM